There is an old saying that there is a kernel of truth in every good lie. This is definitely true with postmodernism. When people claim to be oppressed, for example, there is a great deal of truth to that. We live on a planet that has a nearly infinite number of ways to kill us, and for most of mankind’s existence, life has been brutal, and short. Of course we are oppressed. We have all been oppressed by a whole myriad of forces, from biology and climate, to each other.
It really is a testament to the ingenuity of mankind that we have eked out even a semblance of modern comfort, where we worry more about retirement than starvation. Our poor have X-Box Ones and PlayStation Fours, air conditioning, high-definition televisions with cable TV, computers providing access to the entire world, cars, and all kinds of other luxeries. The oppression we feel, while real, is trivial by historic standards.
Do white people oppress black people? They did when I was a child. I went to an all-white Kindergarten before bussing was enacted. I remember playing with other kids in a playground, completely oblivious to the fact that one of the kids playing with all of us was black, until one of my friends’ mothers pulled her son aside and said, “We don’t play with that kind.” I’m sure the young African American child, who had just been called out as ‘that kind,’ and made to feel inferior to the rest of us, felt oppressed.
I remember my father quitting The Elks when The Elks refused to accept an African American as a member. That was also at least forty years ago, but it happened, and I have no doubt that racist events continue to occur all around the country, to this day.
Racism is real, and surly it is oppressive. But is it systemic? Is racism baked into the American DNA, as President Obama once claimed?
Thomas Sowell has researched this into the ground, finding that even when we were still a very racist nation, ethnicity alone was a poor determining factor for the different economic outcomes of different groups. African Americans today, according to Sowell’s research, are more apt to have grown up in single parent households, more apt to have grown up in poverty, and more apt to have had various other risk factors pointing toward a life of poverty, than are white Americans, but when those other factors are controlled for, and ethnicity is the only factor being looked at, the differences in outcomes go away. Dr. Sowell has shown that if one looks only at those who grew up in two-parent homes where at least one parent was college educated, African Americans make more, on average, than do white people.
That of course does not mean that racism is gone, and when we see racism in the world around us, we should all unite and demand that such activity stop. When the alt-right marches, we should protest them. Of course we should. When we see our friends and colleagues say or do racist things, we should correct them. Of course we should. We should do everything in our power to make racists feel unwanted. But we should also be honest, and the truth is that ethnicity is a very poor predictor of economic advancement, which would tend to indicate that we no longer are an oppressive society with regard to race.
African Americans are more apt to have grown up in single parent homes, and to have had other risk factors, than are white people. There is a reason for that too. The Daily Libertarian has a write-up on this called American Apartheid.
How about gender? Do we oppress women? One would certainly think so when reading the news. Everyone in Hollywood seems to be up against sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, and other sex-related allegations. Allegations are starting to come out of Washington as well.
We are also seeing allegations of sexual assault committed by women, against men. Demi Moore is one of the accused. She, as a married, nineteen year old woman, had an affair with a fifteen year old boy (https://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2017/11/13/demi-moore-sexual-15-year-old-boy/). More and more female teachers are getting caught having sexual relations with students. Power – not gender – seems to be the predominant factor.
We hear a great deal about the gender pay gap, even though it gets discredited every time it comes up. No credible economist believes in a gender pay gap (http://time.com/3222543/wage-pay-gap-myth-feminism/). The fact of the matter is that if one looks only at people who have never been married or had children, women make more than men. The ‘gap’ is caused not by oppression, but by the simple fact that men and women make different choices, once they form into families and start having children. That’s not oppression; it’s choice.
How about gay and transgendered people? Are they oppressed? I don’t doubt that there are those who do not want to make a cake for a gay wedding, and I can remember reading about horrific acts of barbarism committed against people who were gay or trans. When I was a kid, calling something ‘gay’ was an insult, and derogatory anti-gay slurs were hurled not only at gay people, but also at young men who were not athletically inclined. It was at times brutal growing up in the 70s and 80s.
How do gay people do today? On average, they earn more than straight people (https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/03/01/gay-couples-more-educated-higher-income-than-heterosexual-couples).
Now – I don’t mean to pretend that the amount of money people may make is the only way to determine whether or not they are oppressed, but if the kinds of systemic oppression different groups in America claim were real, surely it would manifest itself in some measurable economic index. It does not manifest itself, and so I call the notion of systemic oppression a lie.
The oppression lie is a particularly dangerous one, as it discourages people from trying to be successful. When postmodernists slice society up into all kinds of different groups, and convince each of these groups that they are a victim, all they are encouraging is blame. There is no solution there. Rather than teaching our children how to give up on life, we need to empower them by teaching them that this is a land of opportunity where, in spite of the natural oppression that exists all around us, in nature, and in each other, with drive and perseverance, any of us can strive to become whatever we wish to be.