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White Male Temper Tantrums: What the ‘Political Correctness’ Debate Completely Misses

Jonathan Chait (Credit: MSNBC)
Jonathan Chait (Credit: MSNBC)

 

(Salon) – After losing the Great Race Debate of 2014 to Ta-Nehisi Coates, Jonathan Chait has decided to begin this year coming for “the feminists,” under the guise of a screed about the tyrannies of “political correctness.”

Lest, I, black feminist, appear too combative, let me start with a different kind of assertion, a response to an unspoken assumption that hovers just under the surface of many of the most strident critiques of the tone and tenor of popular political discourse.

Black women thinkers in the public sphere labor under an age-old set of stereotypes that reduce us to emotion, and embodiment, exempt us from the intellectual, and prevent us from being taken seriously as thinkers and theorists on large-scale questions. Those stereotypes, all of which Chait employs in his recent piece, characterize black women as violent, emotional, unreasonable. For instance, Chait references the arrest, while pregnant, of black feminist professor Mireille Miller-Young, after a protest on her campus, in which she snatched signs from students holding up pictures of aborted fetuses. Then there was the obligatory jab at black twitter feminist Mikki Kendall,  current white liberal whipping girl, via reference to her hashtag #solidarityisforwhitewomen. Then, Chait quoted my essay in response to a column from Michelle Goldberg last year, in which I called out the problematic invocation of terms like “reason” and “civility” on the white liberal left.

My Salon colleague Joan Walsh notes that Chait’s column reads  “as an attack on women of color for saying some not-nice things to white progressive women. It’s chivalrous, almost; and chauvinistic, too, as though we can’t speak up for ourselves.”

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