Andrew Sullivan = Racist?

See what I did there? By putting a question mark at the end of my post title, I make it clear I’m just a curious fellow, and in no way insulting the character of that lovable blogger “of no party or clique.”

Now, Mike Meginnis used a period instead. Silly man. Now I have to offer a qualified defense of Sullivan.

It is certainly is nonsense to, as Mike says, “draw a lesson about ‘Arab culture’ and (what Sully would call) its many shortcomings from the time we blew up their country without their consent and then stuck around to remake it in our own image.” However, in that it’s acceptable to make generalizations about Arab culture based on empirical data, arriving at bad conclusions based on outliers isn’t racist…it’s just wrong.

The bright line between acceptable cultural criticism and unacceptable racism is essentialism — you can condemn a social construct, but not the traits of a people. I think Mike too recognizes this distinction since he claims Andrew is trying to “prove some sort of congenital flaw in the so-called ‘Arab character.'” However, this is a leap, as Sullivan’s commentary never moves into a discussion of the nature of Arabs.

What Sullivan does is argue that (present-day, mainstream) Arab culture offers only pessimistic prospects for (western) democracy (and that this is a bad thing). The parenthetical statements being implicit in the piece, and me lacking sufficient exposure to the Sullivan oeuvre, it’s possible I’m misjudging his meaning and he means something worse than this. But on the surface, this statement’s fine, even if the Iraq experience is a lousy basis for it.

UPDATE: So, I’m not ready to throw around ‘racist,’ but after Meginnis’s response offering more examples of Sullivan’s ethnic criticism, I would suggest to Andrew that less time spent discussing the behavior of the brown & black brethren might be a good idea.

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