This week, an odd tweet appeared in my mentions from verified Twitter users -- users prominent enough to be granted a blue check mark by Twitter itself. This one came courtesy of a rapper named Talib Kweli Greene. I'll admit I'd never heard of Greene until he suddenly appeared in my mentions calling me a "racist ass." It turns out Greene is a rapper with well over 1 million Twitter followers and a long history of "social activism."
A quick search of Greene's Twitter feed showed a wide variety of instances of the rapper calling people "white boy" and "coon." He says that this does not make him racist, of course -- only the term "black boy" would be racist, since Greene maintains that white people cannot truly be victimized by racism. When I pointed out that seeming incongruity, Greene replied: "What's the problem white boy? You think 'white boy' is racist? Wow. You're dumber than I thought." He then dared me to call him "black boy," which, of course, I would never do, since that would be racist.
What's Greene's actual argument? It seems to be that since the derogatory slur "black boy" was thrown around by lynch mobs, any other derogatory slur can no longer be derogatory. This is the rhetorical equivalent of the argument your mother used to make back in grade school: You're not truly hungry, since there are children in China who are starving to death. The argument fails for the same reason: Yes, it turns out there are gradations of racism, just as there are gradations of hunger. But you were hungry when you were a kid, even if your bowels weren't distended, and you're a racist if you call someone "white boy" in a derogatory fashion, even if you're not attempting to lynch him.
Thanks to the theory of intersectionality, however, such logic goes by the wayside. Intersectional theory has now taken over the college campuses, leaving the broken corpses of decency and reason in its wake. Intersectionality classifies social categories of race, class, gender and sexual orientation into a hierarchy of victimhood that decides how you should be treated. If you are a black lesbian, for example, you outrank a black straight man and your view must be treated with more care and weight than that of the black straight man. More importantly, since society somehow classifies you as "lesser" than the black straight man, you are incapable of ever doing anything to victimize that black straight man -- social powerlessness means that your individual victim status never changes.
This is why Greene and others on the left believe it's just fine to use "white boy" as a slur: Black people have historically seen discrimination in America that whites have not; whites benefit from a more powerful status in society at large; and therefore, black people cannot possibly be racist against white people. As Morehouse College Professor Dr. Marc Lamont-Hill said last year, "black people don't have the institutional power to be racist or to deploy racism."
There's only one problem with this notion: It's racist.
Racism bolstered by power is obviously more dangerous than racism without it. But racism can be used to achieve power, too -- generally through the polarization of racial groups against one another. Tribalism is a powerful force, and resorting to a victimhood mentality to explain tribalism away doesn't make it any less toxic. The faster Americans learn that, the faster racism can actually be curbed rather than exacerbated.