Is "Whiteness" a Public Health Crisis?
It is if you ask a contributing New York Times opinion writer.
This week at The Root, a fellow named Damon Young wrote a piece titled Whiteness Is a Pandemic. Well, writers don’t write the headlines. Maybe that’s an unfair encapsulation of his point. Let’s just start reading the actual text and see if the author really meant that . . .
Whiteness is a public health crisis.
Oh. I guess he did.
It shortens life expectancies, it pollutes air, it constricts equilibrium, it devastates forests, it melts ice caps, it sparks (and funds) wars, it flattens dialects, it infests consciousnesses, and it kills people—white people and people who are not white, my mom included. There will be people who die, in 2050, because of white supremacy-induced decisions from 1850.
Note how quickly and easily Young moves from the concept of “whiteness” to the concept of “white supremacy” — as if they were identical.
Young’s bio at the bottom of the piece grabbed my attention:
Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker
A contributing opinion writer for the New York Times, you say? Making nasty generalizations about people based on the color of their skin?
Yup, checks out.
Young wrote in response to the recent mass murder in Georgia, in which the shooter targeted employees and perhaps customers of three massage parlors. The woke crowd immediately determined that this was a clear case of racism (and/or sexism), and Andrew Sullivan (I know, right?) wrote a great piece raising questions about the woke consensus. (As an aside, I can’t say I recommend that you run out and subscribe to Sullivan’s Substack just because he got this right. Next month is Trig Palin’s 13th birthday, and Lord only knows how Sullivan is planning to commemorate that particular day. I don’t think I want to subscribe to him and find out.) And don’t even get me started about the phony “controversy” over the cop who, the lefties claimed, tried to excuse the shooter as simply having had a bad day:
Despite the lack of evidence that the Georgia murders were an example of racism, Young takes the “racism” angle and runs with it hard:
There’s a line connecting this act of terror to the 11 people killed at the Tree of Life synagogue in 2018, and the nine people killed at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 2015, of course. But also to gentrification, to red-lining, to racial profiling, to gerrymandering, to voter oppression, to mass incarceration, to the war on drugs, to the subprime mortgage crisis, to the vast disparities in both COVID deaths and who receives COVID vaccinations, to how the men and women who stormed the capitol just went home and had dinner with their families afterward.
It’s beyond the scope of today’s missive to take on each and every one of these references and debunk the notion that they all stem from racism. I’ll simply observe as a parallel that, not that long ago, COVID denier Alex Berenson was trying to explain to his audience of credulous suckers that the COVID vaccines are dangerous . . . because why? Because when you look at the initial group of people to be vaccinated, you saw that the vaccinated people were likely to die than unvaccinated people. What Berenson forgot to mention was that old people with comorbidities got the vaccine first, and the notion that old people with comorbidities die more often is pretty much what you’d [expletive deleted]ing expect to happen, isn’t it? The lesson here is that drawing grand conclusions by comparing two groups without controlling for diddly-squat tends to produce very misleading and even dangerous results. And that’s the kind of “evidence” upon which most of Young’s assertions are based.
A friend (well, he was a friend, but unfollowed me after this conversation) on Twitter assured me that the concept of “whiteness” is always and everywhere a reference to race obsession. He cited the writings of James Baldwin. Now, I read some James Baldwin in college, and in 2007 I credited him with really opening my eyes to the way that the oppression of black people in American history has angered generations. But nothing in Young’s “pandemic” piece suggests that he buys into Baldwin’s thesis that race is a social construct. Rather, Young seems pretty entranced with the differences between white and black, and the supposed danger posed by those with paler shades of skin to those with darker shades.
And while nothing surprises us about the New York Times any more, it seems like a real shame that such a nasty piece of work as Damon Young would be a contributing writer to such a widely circulated paper.
But maybe I’m exaggerating (by taking his bio at face value) Young’s alleged status as a contributor to the Grey Lady. After all, a Fox News story about the controversy says:
Young, whose Times bio also lists him as a "contributing opinion writer" last wrote for the paper in December. Fox News reached out to the Times to inquire about his current status with the paper.
Similarly, Young's Twitter profile describes him as a writer at GQ. However, he has not published anything there since August of last year.
Oh. Now, I’m not one to question the journalism of Fox News, but when I go to Young’s page at the New York Times myself, the last piece I see is actually from July 2020. And reading it made me sort of do a double take. It’s titled Yeah, Let's Not Talk About Race and contains this supposedly representative conversation between Young and a well-meaning white neighbor accosting him in the street.
Random White Neighbor: Hey, I really liked your book.
Me, from 18 to 24 feet away: Thanks.
RWN: I was thinking about everything happening in the country.
Me:I’m thinking of things I’d rather do than have this conversation.
RWN: And we’ve come so far, but have so much farther to go.
Me: Like eating microwaved lettuce.
RWN: And if you ever wanted to sit and talk about what white people can do ——
Me: Or bungee-jumping with dental floss.
RWN: —— maybe, when everything settles, we can get a coffee and talk about racism.
Me: Thanks, but my post-Covid schedule is booked. ’Til 2024. But I’ll let you know.
RWN: Black lives matter!
That’s actually kind of a funny parody of woke white people. Then again, it doesn’t really square with the whole “whiteness is killing everyone” argument. Which is the problem with white people? That they like to genocide people right and left, or that they are spending too much time reading Robin DiAngelo? I’m so confused!
Part of the secret is that talking about race is what Young considers his job. The deck headline, under the “Yeah, Let’s Not Talk About Race” headline, reads: “Unless you pay me.” He doesn’t want to be burdened with these conversations while taking his evening walk, unless he’s going to be paid for it.
Either way, the above conversation reminds me of the conversation I imagined myself having with the kind of person who wrote Young’s piece at The Root — or better yet, a woke white person who subscribes to such a philosophy:
Woke Person Whose Race Does Not Matter: Hey, let’s have a conversation about race!
Me: Um, OK.
WPWRDNM: So anyway, I think whiteness is a plague on society!
Me: I just remembered I have something else to do.
WPWRDNM: No problem. Let’s resume the conversation soon!
Me: Sorry, I have something else to do then too.
It seems the Damon Young of July 2020 and I are kindred spirits of a sort. We’re not really interested in talking about race. But the Damon Young of 2021 is, and he wants you to know that whiteness kills. Meanwhile, the Patterico of 2021 is interested in talking about race only to the extent that I can advocate that we stop talking about it.
So yeah, Damon Young, I’m on board. Let’s stop talking about race.
Whether you get paid or not.
Not only does Young move from "the concept of “whiteness” to the concept of “white supremacy” — as if they were identical," but he ultimately tells us what should be done about the problem: "White supremacy is a virus that, like other viruses, will not die until there are no bodies left for it to infect. Which means the only way to stop it is to locate it, isolate it, extract it, and kill it." Because he conflates "whiteness" and "white supremacy," his solution is just a bit troubling, no?
I'm going to be charitable here, and assume that this was not his best work.
First, the piece you’re responding to is horrible. The easy conflagration of white with white supremacy is offensive. His condescension on the subject is insulting, and worst of all I can’t see that he contributed any new thoughts or ideas at all with his essay.
Second, the way Aaron Rupar reported the sheriff’s statement, if not technically a lie, should be a career ending mistake. Given your chisel like flexibility on transparency in journalism I was expecting more on that.
Third, I think an initial conclusion that the targeted murder of 8 Asian people in multiple locations by 1 person was motivated by race is fair. I think as we’ve learned more it’s more correct to conclude that the race of the victims is only part of the reasons he killed them. Even this might be wrong, and I’m open to evidence that he was equally comfortable dehumanizing women of other races. But right now it looks like he was a sex addict who saw Asian women not as people, but as objects that existed to provide him with sexual gratification. Until more evidence about his motivation is available, I think it’s more correct to conclude that race was one of the reasons if not the only or primary reason.