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Mon Jun 10, 2013, 08:49 PM

Let Them Eat Diversity

An excellent interview with Walter Benn Michaels, author of The Trouble With Diversity, from a couple of years ago. It's lengthy so I'll just post a couple of short clips. Full interview here: http://jacobinmag.com/2011/01/let-them-eat-diversity

The fact that most of our poverty is not produced by prejudice should suggest to us that if we are actually concerned about poverty, no matter how much anti-discrimination work we do we are not going to take care of the poverty problem, certainly not in our little test group, the 61 percent of the country who are poor and White. So there are two ways to deal with that; one you say “Okay maybe it’s true that we should focus a little less on discrimination and a little more on other forms of dealing with this inequality,” or, two, the state of the art thing which is to say, “No actually it’s false. White people have been the victim of discrimination, because the lower class is itself a victim of discrimination.”

I wrote a piece on this last year based on the Gates episode for the London Review of Books, a review of a book that had just come out in the U.K. about extending anti-discrimination to deal with the white working class, as if the problem with the white working class was that it was insufficiently respected and that if you could only get a few more White working class guys up at the top … basically just treating the white working class as if it were an identity. That’s cutting edge neoliberalism.

WBM: ... My argument is fairly straightforward. To be poor in America today, or to be anything but in the top 20 percent in America today, is to be victimized in important ways and in so far as we’re appreciating the characteristic products of victimization, we are not actually dealing with exploitation, but rather enshrining victimization, treating it as if it had value and therefore ought to be preserved. And that’s obviously reactionary.

BKS: Like the Richard Geres of the world viewing Tibetan poverty as a commendable stand against materialism.

WBM: Completely.

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