Over at my own blog, I’ve gotten a few excellent responses to my post on conservatives and “whiteness.” In particular, commenter ECLI left this thoughtful dissent:
Allow me to register a dissent. (A prefatory comment: for those who don’t know me, I’m a Puerto Rican but a political conservative).
What your post fails to distinguish is that there are, in fact, different kinds of “whiteness,” some of which can be celebrated, some of which cannot. Specifically, white people who before would not have been considered white–Italians, Poles, Irish, Jews, etc.–can celebrate that aspect of themselves that in times past would have prevented them from being considered white: namely, their non-English ethnic identities. Jim Webb tried to celebrate the white Scots-Irish who settled the upland South, but he really only got away with it because (a) the folks he was talking were poor and marginalized despite their whiteness and (b) he delivered a red state to the Democrats.
But you cannot celebrate the white, English-descended culture that produced such important pre-Revolution cultural figures such as Cotton Mather and Jonathan Edwards, the generations of the Revolution and the Framing, and such 19th Century cultural figures as Melville, Hawthorne, Henry Adams, Ralph Waldo Emerson, or Oliver Wendell Holmes (both Sr. and Jr.), to pick a few random names.
Technically speaking, this is would be WASPiness, not whiteness, but either way a WASP could not say that a wise WASP judge would make better decisions that a wise [insert ethnic group here] judge. Yet this white, English-descended, protestant culture that developed in the original thirteen colonies between, say, the settlement of Jamestown in 1607 and the rise of ethnic Italians and Irish in urban politics in the early 20th century (paving the way for their eventual incorporation into the American mainstream and thus “white” America) is undeniably a distinct ethnicity with its own religious, literary, cultural, and political traditions. This is an ethnic group that is not PC to celebrate, so multiculturalism as practiced in America sets up a double standard.
Now, this should probably be so: it would be absurd to have a “white (or WASP) history month” to rediscover these figures because they are the American canon. Moreover, this double standard is especially justified by WASP America’s historical treatment of minorities, African-Americans and Native Americans in particular.
So there is good reason for a double standard, but I think it is factually wrong to claim that there is no double standard or that there is no such as “whiteness.”
In short, you are right to say that a celebration of whiteness would be a celebration of privilege, but I think you are wrong to say that there is no such thing as whiteness as an ethnic identity. I think to claim otherwise is a way of avoiding the truer, but less popular claim, that there is a double standard and that it is justified.
I’m actually inclined to agree with ECLI here, but I’d like to hear your thoughts. What do you think?