Columnist Juan Williams, himself a black, pro-Obama Democrat, wondered in a recent commentary about why pro-Obama officials at Rutgers University in New Jersey voted to cancel the honorary degree of Condoleezza Rice, George W. Bush’s Secretary of State.
Williams sarcastically observes [FoxNews.com 3/6/14]:
Condoleezza Rice lacks “moral authority.” She fails to meet the standards of “exemplary citizenship” and she does not have what it takes to “inspire” graduating college seniors.
That crazy thinking comes from the New Brunswick Faculty Council of Rutgers University. They voted last week to ask university leadership to cancel Rice’s invitation to be this year’s Commencement Speaker and receive an honorary degree.
Yes, apparently the first African-American woman to serve as National Security Adviser and the nation’s Secretary of State doesn’t have what it takes to be honored by Rutgers.
Rice holds a Ph.D. in political science. She has taught college for decades. She was Provost of Stanford University. She worked her way up from a working-class family in the segregated South to the highest echelon of world power and politics.
But according to the Rutgers faculty council, all of that is negated by her service in President George W. Bush’s administration.
The issue here is less political than psychological, and ultimately philosophical.
The psychological part refers to the rage certain people experience — and express — when you do not share their opinion on something they consider important. The rage is particularly intense when (they assume) you’re supposed to have their point-of-view, but you don’t.
Most likely, that rage springs from anxiety. When one hasn’t formed conclusions about which one feels rationally secure, it results in a sense of anxiety and feeling attacked that causes one to strike out — in rage, usually verbal — against those who dare to dissent in any way.
In this case, people who are black (or not black, but are pro-Obama) feel that — by definition — a fellow black person must feel the same way they do about matters of politics or ideology. The very existence of that fellow black person disagreeing with them shatters their mental world. “If a black person doesn’t agree with Obama, what does that say about my position?” This is the thought they cannot bear to face, so instead of facing it, they lash out in anger and attack.
It works in other demographic contexts too. “You’re Hispanic, so you should have the same ideological view I do.” Or, “You’re gay, so you should have the same position on Obama that I do.” Seriously? Just because you’re black, or Hispanic, or gay, you should automatically have a certain position on taxation, government involvement in medicine or the national debt? Why?
This is where you get to the philosophical part.
Philosophy, in part, refers to the means by which you know things — how you know what you think you know. Emotions are part of life, and just because something is held with emotion, passion or conviction does not make it automatically bad or wrong. But, as my favorite philosopher Ayn Rand (and before her, Aristotle) asserted, emotions are not tools of cognition. Ultimately, truth must be verified by facts and logic, not emotions.
If you hold your conclusions rationally, then you don’t hold a particular grudge against a black person for supporting Bush’s policies over Obama’s. When confronted with a black person who holds positions with which you disagree, you don’t feel or think anything different because that person is black. You simply think, “Why do you hold that view? These are the errors or problems I have with your position.” It’s the same thing you think when a white person holds an opposing view. It’s not about race, gender or anything else. It’s about the truth or falsehood of the person’s position.
But if a view is held emotionally, the truth of that viewpoint is exposed in situations like this. The truth of how that viewpoint is held, that is. “How dare you be black and Republican? You’re supposed to agree with me!” But why? Truth is not determined by race, is it? Isn’t that the sort of thing espoused by KKK and Nazi types?
This question is never addressed by the raging, angry person who will not allow dissension of any kind. To Obama supporters who hold their views without sufficient logical or factual input, their political positions are really more about group membership and group identity than anything objective or rational.
Juan Williams, a black man who speaks in defense of Condoleezza Rice, is better than that. I still maintain that he’s totally wrong in his pro-Obama views. But he’s a better man than his colleagues who won’t even reason about their views, and feel emotionally entitled to demand that people — especially people in their own personal racial “club” or other demographic group — automatically and always agree with them.
None of this is to imply that I’m a great fan of George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, or much of anything on the conservative side of things. I rank George W. Bush and Barack Obama as two of America’s worst presidents ever, precisely because of how similar they are on the things that really matter (freedom vs. self-sacrifice, collectivism vs. individualism).
None of this is to imply that every person who voted for Obama, or feels they support him, has this kind of intolerant attitude. Juan Williams is an exception, and there are others.
But the Obama supporters with the most power and authority (especially in academia or media) usually do display this intolerance. That’s why there’s an undercurrent of censorship developing in our society, fueled by this psychology of intolerant arrogance and ideology of “racial truth.”
Dr Michael Hurd
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