I regularly read James Taranto’s Best of the Web and always enjoy his “Life imitates the Onion” or “Life imitates South Park” shticks. Imagine my surprise today, when I realized that, this time around, life is imitating a very silly satire I did at my blog almost exactly one year ago.
In September 2010, Marin conservatives gathered at a “Groupapalooza” to learn about conservative organizations in and near Marin County. (I know it’s hard to believe that there are conservatives and conservative organizations in and around Marin County, but we conservatives are a hardy, if somewhat outnumbered, breed.)
I attended the Groupapalooza and had a great and giddy time mingling with like-minded spirits. This induced such a spirit of frivolity in me that, when I got back to my computer, I wrote my follow-up post from the point of view of a young Progressive journalist. As part of this write-up, I threw in a paragraph in which my imaginary progressive journalist discusses her “friendships” with oppressed people:
Although no one manning these various tables [with information about conservative causes and candidates] was overtly hostile, I could feel them look me over, just as if they actually knew that I have a black friend. Or I had a black friend. Well, to be perfectly honest (because I am nothing if not honest), my mail carrier is black and I always say “hello” to him. I’m also very close to my Hispanic housekeeper, Rosa. (Or is it Flora? I always forget because, to tell the truth — and I always tell the truth — I try to stay away when she cleans ’cause it’s kind of uncomfortable to have to stop and talk to someone who scrubs your toilet, you know?)
Imagine my surprise to learn today that my silly social satire has been on-upped by reality and, funnily enough, it was James Taranto who brought it to my attention. He writes about a spat between two liberals, with the chromatic liberal taking the achromatic liberal to task for having the temerity to call the former a friend in a way that was clearly racially condescending. (Yes, I’m confused too.) Here’s how Taranto sums it up:
Yesterday we noted that The Nation’s Melissa Harris-Perry was accusing white liberals of abandoning President Obama for racially invidious reasons. This prompted a defensive and very long response from one white liberal, Joan Walsh, who began by stipulating that she and Harris-Perry are friends:
When I say Melissa Harris-Perry is my friend, I don’t say that rhetorically, or ironically; we are professional friends, we have socialized together; she has included me on political round tables; I like and respect her enormously. That’s why I think it’s important to engage her argument, and I’ve invited her to reply.
I was taken aback that Walsh emphasized the extent of our friendship. Walsh and I have been professionally friendly. We’ve eaten a few meals. I invited her to speak at Princeton and I introduced her to my literary agent. We are not friends. Friendship is a deep and lasting relationship based on shared sacrifice and joys. We are not intimates in that way.
Take that, Joan! Note that Walsh and Harris-Perry are in agreement about the facts of their association, they disagree only over what to call it.
It seems to us that Walsh merely meant to suggest that she meant her criticisms of Harris-Perry in a spirit of goodwill. But Harris-Perry doesn’t stop at renouncing friendship with Walsh. She accuses Walsh of employing a “common strategy of argument about one’s racial innocence: the ‘I have black friends’ claim.” Harris-Perry has twisted Walsh’s olive branch into a racially invidious provocation. With friends like these . . .
If life is going to imitate art, I wish it would do so in a way that is aesthetically pleasing, rather than merely ridiculous.
UPDATE: And while we’re on the subject of racism, Zombie (or, dare I say it, my friend Zombie, whom I’ve never actually met or spoken with, but still really like and respect) looks at the cupcake kerfuffle in at UC Berkeley, a place that is always agitated about everything but actual learning.