We’re accustomed to the idea that in every nation, there’s a majority who inherently have privilege, and a minority, who are discriminated against.
Since 1789, we’ve known that minority to be a political minority, or the people versus the aristocrats and the wealthy.
Since 1968, we’ve thought of that minority as the oppressed/discriminated against, which is a long list of people from ethnic minorities, homosexuals, women, the disabled, religious minorities and youth.
We’re comfortable with this rhetoric — of minority justified in fighting majority because the minority is oppressed — but it’s a one-way street. First, it requires an enemy, an oppressor. Second, it requires that the oppressed be saints. And when those two come into conflict, we see that often there are multiple groups of oppressed and they are oppressing each other.
The United States is boycotting a U.N. conference on racism next week over a document that “singles out” Israel in its criticism and conflicts with the nation’s “commitment to unfettered free speech,” the U.S. State Department said Saturday.
State Department officials say the document contains language that reaffirms the Durban Declaration and Programme of Actions from the 2001 conference in Durban, South Africa, which the United States has said it won’t support. The 2001 document “prejudges key issues that can only be resolved in negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, the Congressional Black Caucus said it was “deeply dismayed” by the decision made by the nation’s first African-African president, saying it was inconsistent with administration policies.
So what we’ve got here is our first African-American president, who the right is currently unsuccessfully trying to smear by comparing him to Hitler, and he’s backing out of a conference that might call the descendants of Hitler’s victims Hitleresque themselves. Hitler Hitler Hitler!
Obviously, this makes no sense. Our previous narrative — we use narratives to project ourselves into the future, in lieu of having some kind of values system we share — said that The Jews were victims, and that they were oppressed, and that empowering them would make us good.
But now, there’s another oppressed group that feels it is oppressed by Israel (I’m not sure of the overlap of Israel and The Jews, which seems to be a media term for “selected interests of Jewish descent and/or religion”). So we’re in conflict, just as we are anytime Jews and blacks mix it up on the streets of New York, or American Indians decide to exclude blacks, or gays hate on women. Our narrative has broken.
What makes more sense in my view is to recognize that the world is a varied place. Wherever a majority appears, they’re going to work for their own interests — and any other group showing up is a thorn in their side. Our narrative now demands that we shame them into accepting that group by calling them racists. However, that’s clearly not working: Israel, for example, knows that if they don’t oust Palestinians, the Palestinians will outbreed them in the next 25 years and democratically take over the state.
It’s time for a new narrative, and the USA being caught between a rock and a hard place — deriving its identity from being the savior of the oppressed everywhere, yet having allegiance to Israel — is forcing us all to reconsider the idea that majority-minority narratives don’t explain enough of the story for us to rely upon them.