When I was a teenager, I occasionally affected a sort of absurdist faux-racial militancy, declaring myself the Generalissimo of the Most Serene Popular and Revolutionary Democratic Republic of Brooklyn, a breakaway statelet committed to Afro-Asian revolutionism. I asked my best friend—who was white, incidentally—to serve as minister without portfolio, and he happily obliged. Rest assured, this sounded just as silly then as it does now. But I shudder to think of what might have happened had Twitter been around back then. My playfulness would surely have been mistaken for something more sinister.
I thought of this when Sarah Jeong, a much-admired technology journalist with sterling credentials, became the center of one of our periodic micro-controversies for having written pointed missives about whites on Twitter. The tweets surfaced shortly after the New York Times announced that she would join its editorial board. Jeong insists that her remarks represented a satirical response to racist abuse she had received over the years, and I won’t presume to better understand her inner thoughts. The Times accepted her explanation, resisting calls, mostly from the political right, to fire her. Others, such as my National Review colleague David French, defended the decision not to fire her while stressing that anti-white rhetoric shouldn’t be lightly dismissed. I am sympathetic to French’s argument, which he makes with great care. What I want to do, though, is look beyond the particulars of Jeong’s remarks to better understand why anti-white rhetoric is, in some communities, so commonplace as to be banal.