It reminds me of the ‘bike to work’ movement. That is also portrayed as white, but in my city more than half of the people on bike are not white. I was once talking to a white activist who was photographing ‘bike commuters’ and had only pictures of white people with the occasional ‘Black professional’. I asked her why she didn’t photograph the delivery people, construction workers etc., i.e. the Black and [Latin@] and Asian people, and she mumbled something about trying to ‘improve the image of biking’ then admitted that she didn’t really see them as part of the ‘green movement’ since they ‘probably have no choice’.
I was so mad I wanted to quit working on the project she and I were collaborating on.
So, in the same way when people in a poor neighborhood grow food in their yards, it’s just being poor — but when white people do it they are saving the earth or something
— comment left on the Racialious
blog post “Sustainable Food & Privilege: Why is Green always White (and Male and Upper-Class)” (via sister-bell
This is how you’re meant to argue when you’re eventually in charge. You’re trained for it, and part of that training is regularly being presented with morally indefensible positions to defend anyway or risk losing whatever competition you’re engaged with. I have seen perfectly decent young men get carried away defending genocide and torture because that’s the only way to win. Those who are unable to do so are taught that they have no business having political opinions. The people assumed to be the future elite are not rewarded for getting the answer which is most correct, most compassionate or humane or even sensible - they’re rewarded for smashing the opposition. And that’s how you get politicians who will argue anything they’re told to, enact any policy they’re told to no matter how many how many people will get hurt, just so that their team can win.
Moreover, this isn’t just a standard homework question. It appears on a scholarship entrance exam, a test designed to be sat by young men seeking to join the ranks of the rich and powerful by virtue of merit and smarts rather than family money. Most fee-paying schools have such a system in place, especially the really elite ones which need to maintain a veneer of public conscience to bolster their tax-exempt charity status (yes, Eton is technically a charity) and boost exam results by scattering some middle-class nerds amongst the rich twits. I sat an entrance exam just like this thirteen years ago, because my parents wanted me to have a private education and they couldn’t afford the fees. Of the hundreds of exams I’ve sat since, none has had quite such a material affect on my future.
Had a question like this appeared on that test, I know I’d have been torn. I wouldn’t be torn now, of course, I’d write ‘go fuck yourself’ across the paper in my sparkliest pens, but right now I’m an adult with a job, not a scared thirteen-year-old who wants to make her mum proud. The obvious answer- that any Prime Minister who attempts to justify the murder of protesters after the rule of law has disintegrated is not fit to rule and should step down immediately - is not one that appears on the test. And that’s the point of tests like these.
It’s not enough to be clever. What this test says is: if you want to be part of the ruling elite, you have to share our values, and one of those values is maintaining power at any cost, even if it involves defending the indefensible. Having a moral compass that doesn’t spin wildly at the promise of power is an active impediment. The significant line in that extended question is ‘You are the Prime Minister.’ As if you’d be anything else.
It is important for scientists to be aware of what our discoveries mean, socially and politically. It’s a noble goal that science should be apolitical, acultural, and asocial, but it can’t be, because it’s done by people who are all those things.