Malo periculosam, libertatem quam quietam servitutem.



April 2010

Is Bill Gates Racist?

Written by , Posted in Identity Politics

In my recent post on Bill Gate’s exclusion of whites from his scholarship, I insinuated that Bill Gates might be racist by saying that people are free not to purchase the products of such a person. What I didn’t do was explain my terminology, which lead to James Joyner of Outside the Beltway asking the question, “Does Bill Gates Hate White People?

Brian Garst observes, “Now, he is free to direct that his money be spent however he pleases.  The rest of us, likewise, are free not to purchase the products of a racist.” He’s right on both counts.   But is Gates really a racist?

First, to state the obvious, Gates looks, um, white.  I mean, he could be the archetype of whiteness.  Granted, there’s such a thing as self-loathing.  But charges of racism against your own kind do tend to require a higher burden of proof.

Second, the stated purpose of the Gates Millennium Scholars program is “is to promote academic excellence and to provide an opportunity for outstanding minority students with significant financial need to reach their highest potential.”   Given that whites remain the majority (if not for long), we’re excluded by definition.

Both of these points are valid.  I don’t think Gates hates white people, or has anything against white people at all.  One possibility that Joyner missed, however, is that Gates might see non-whites as less capable, and therefore in need of special advantages.  That kind of paternalistic racism is hardly uncommon these days.  I don’t actually know that Gates sees non-whites in that way.  I give him the benefit of the doubt and just assume that he has been sucked into the popular culture that has come to treat minorities in such a fashion without second thought.   But one thing I hammer over and over again on this blog is the idea that something doesn’t have to be hateful to be racist.  Identity politics is, by its very nature, a form of racism.

Whites are not a minority, but men are (a fact often obscured since the word “minorities” is often preceded by the words “women and.”)  Why is race a pertinent characteristic and not gender?  Left-handed people are a minority, too.  What makes race more worthy of singling out than any other such characteristics?  Nothing, other than the fact that so many people cannot look at another human being and see anything other than their race.  That’s a kind of racism.

Is Bill Gates doing good with his scholarship? Absolutely.  But his decision to bring in a characteristic absolutely irrelevant to education as a qualifier is a hallmark of the kind of racism that I despise, precisely because so few realize how destructive it is.  After all, it isn’t hateful.  Yet no matter how well meaning, this kind of identity politics perpetuates and exacerbates tensions between races for no good reason.  It is just this kind of paternalistic racism that prevents us from ever reaching the day when we look at our neighbors and just see Americans, without any hyphens.