Max Boot’s Tired White Supremacy Smear

The Washington Post Company building in Washington, D.C. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Max Boot has devoted much of the past 12 hours to distorting a response I wrote to his column “Get a grip, white people. We’re not the victims.” Boot has insisted that mine is “a white supremacist piece,” and implied that I am a “white supremacist.”

Boot makes my point for me: In the world of Max Boot’s creation, there is only Max Boot’s policy preferences on the one hand, and white nationalism on the other. It’s toxic, and predictable from someone who writes so casually about “fears” that plague “white people” as an indiscriminate bloc in the Washington Post.

Much of the outrage about my piece has been directed at the following line:

Boot sets up a Faustian choice for “white” readers: Side with the white supremacists and their detestable program, or sell your political soul to Max Boot and become one of the self-loathing whites so paralyzed by intersectional deference that they can hardly advance an argument without first reciting that neutered prelude: “As a straight, white, cisgender man with privilege, I . . .”

My reference to “self-loathing whites so paralyzed by intersectional deference” was not meant in the “self-hater” paradigm so often employed by racialists on both the right and left to describe members of a racial group who betray supposed majoritarian interests (thinking here of the various insults aimed at Ben Carson, Clarence Thomas, etc. for being “self-hating blacks,” or actual white supremacists who claim that whites in favor of anything from immigration to intermarriage are “race traitors”).

In the piece, I state several times that white nationalists and white supremacists are evil people with repugnant ideologies. I did not do so to create an elaborate ruse to deflect attention from some deeply-held, clandestine racist agenda of mine. I did so because I believe that white supremacy, in all its forms, is a sin against the Creator and His creation. I meant, in other words, what I said.

My point in the self-loathing comment: if Boot is really condemning all white people — and his piece often leaves out any qualifier and talks directly to the unmodified mass of “white people” — then he, as he admits, is part of this all-encompassing category he finds worthy of such rank condemnation (as are Bernie Sanders, Rob Reiner, Howard Dean, etc.). 

This collectivization and mass imputation of guilt would not withstand scrutiny if it were applied to any other group, nor should it. 

All throughout his initial Washington Post piece Boot speaks in unqualified terms about “white people,” stating categorically that “they fear they are losing their privileged position to people of color,” and that they “can be pretty clueless.” Think, for a moment, of the utter outrage that would have met Mr. Boot had he stated that some other demographic category were in the grip of a group-wide “fear,” or were disproportionately “clueless.”

Such “totalizing racial language,” as I wrote in my response, is wrong. It treats fraught issues of race with a sledgehammer and stokes division at a time of “intense racial polarization.”

It only poisons public debate for Boot to pretend that any defection from his ex cathedra declaration of what constitutes a legitimate “attempt to redress past wrongs or foster equal treatment” is a form of white supremacy. No serious or respectable person has any objection to fostering “equal treatment” for all races and ethnicities, but there are basic political disagreements over what an “attempt to redress past wrongs” ought to look like. Should Cory Booker receive reparations from a first-generation Lithuanian immigrant? Should prospective Asian students be discriminated against in college admissions to increase the admission rates of black students? Will we demand that the descendants of American Indian slaveholders pay reparations, too? To assert that any disagreement with Boot on those questions reveals a “fear [of] losing [one’s] privileged position to people of color” or is reflective of white people’s broader “cluelessness” is to do an end-run around a sober argument about what the “redress of past wrongs” means. But I suspect that’s the point.

Mr. Boot proceeded to caricature my work in other places on Twitter. He called a piece that I wrote about the childless Candace Bushnell’s self-described loneliness an attack on “women who don’t produce babies.” The piece makes no such “attack.” It highlights and reflects upon Ms. Bushnell’s own sentiments about the loneliness she has found in her childless golden years. If that piece is an attack on all “women who don’t produce babies,” every critique of Max Boot must be a proximal attack on all men with self-important fedoras and a penchant for smearing their political opponents as racial bigots.

A category that is, thankfully, quite small. In fact, it is limited to Max Boot, who lately, to paraphrase the famous slam of Rudy Giuliani, argues with a noun, and verb, and white supremacy.

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