Is the Former Soviet Bloc ‘White’?


Justin E. H. Smith over at his website:

In the online activity many young people in North America mistake for political engagement, 'white' has become a peculiar sort of insult: a flippant meme masquerading as a serious analytic category. We witness today a constant jockeying for prestige, almost entirely among white men, in which each one strives to publicly display that he is the first and only to have overcome the various pathologies, real and imagined, of white-man-hood. As the sharp critic Fredrik DeBoer has observed, this impoverishment of political debate now leaves us with the obscene and absurd phenomenon of the 'White Off':

A White Off is a peculiar 21st-century phenomenon where white progressives try to prove that the other white progressives they’re arguing with are The Real Whites. It’s a contest in shamelessness: who can be more brazen in reducing race to a pure argumentative cudgel? Who feels less guilt about using the fight against racism as a way to elevate oneself in a social hierarchy? Which white person will be the first to pull out “white” as a pejorative in a way that demonstrates the toothlessness of the concept? Within progressivism today, there is an absolute lack of shame or self-criticism about reducing racial discourse to a matter of straightforward personal branding and social signaling. It turns my stomach.

As for me, I live in Europe, I am not terribly invested in social-media battles of the sort DeBoer seems to enjoy, and so I have only a passing familiarity with the phenomena at issue. How then do I spend my time? Well, when not wondering what the hell is wrong with my fellow Americans, I often find myself thinking about Russia: What is it? What were the historical forces that made it possible for Muscovy to rise to become the principal counterhegemonic force throughout the Pax Americana of the 20th century, and to reappear, some years into the 21st, as a significant player on the world scene?

And in this connection, I have begun to wonder whether this 'white' thing is not perhaps a symptom of a distinctly 'Atlanticist' world view, and whether it might not have somewhat less purchase when one instead looks at the world from a 'Eurasianist' perspective. These are of course the sinister Aleksandr Dugin's terms, and when I invoke them I do not mean to endorse them as true, but rather to make some progress toward understanding why the Russians in particular and the citizens of the former Soviet bloc in general constitute such a peculiar tertium quid in relation to the schemes for carving up of the basic human subkinds that are general currency among American bloggers: they don't see themselves in our Atlantic-centered racial categories, and that exclusion, that irrelevance of our grids, only makes them more estranged and hostile, less NATO-oid. The war in Europe that appears to be taking shape at present is going to be between groups of people Aaron Bady, say, would call 'white', but it's pretty clear that that designation doesn't mean much to at least one of the sides, and that there's a long, deep continental history that's being overlooked when Eurasians, and notably Russians, are thought of in these Atlanticizing terms.

More here.