Could Walter Williams have said anything more injuriously base in his most recent Richmond Times Dispatch (RTD) article, titled White privilege and other fables? It would certainly be difficult, but then again that is not saying much for the RTD.
Where does one even begin? This entire piece is a travesty of toxic masculine excess, reinforced by the worst kinds of unsavory conservatism that belongs in the pages of Brietbart or InfoWars – not the editorial section of a city’s newspaper.
But then again, RTD.
In his piece, Williams meanders against a roster of un-related concepts and ideological perspectives, from the modern progressive movement to intellectual activity on college campuses. He casts the search, development, and engagement of certain ideas – which all young people are entitled to – as some kind of frivolous political experiment. “On college campuses, the same sort of equivalency is made between capitalism and communism, but if one looks at the real world, there’s a stark difference.” He goes on to say, “Just ask yourself: In which societies is the average citizen richer — societies toward the capitalist end of the economic spectrum or those toward the communist end?”
Young people exploring their social and political identities (communism and socialism included) is the foundation by which an informed citizenry can make knowledgeable decisions about the world around them; something Williams is clearly uncomfortable with. And he makes no point other than to showcase his total disdain for the same kind of political and philosophical theory he claims to have a mastery over.
Regardless, his usage of the word “equivalency” is important here, and one which we’ll revisit shortly.
Right after this hackneyed pontification, he refers to the idea of multiculturalism and diversity as “more recent nonsense.” This should come as no surprise, given he has a blog post called Western Values are Superior. This is the exact same kind of language and rhetoric espoused by nationalists and the alt-right to push xenophobia and fear against immigrants and refugees.
Yet his most clear contempt is reserved for women, specifically the equivalency he draws between those who would assault and demean women, and the men who cannot be held accountable for their actions. Williams pulls no punches in blaming women, their behavior, and their “lack of moral compass” as the basis by which sexual assault occurs. This false equivalency does not stop there, however, as he attempts to qualify his statement with a metaphor comparing sexual assault to leaving his wallet on the hood of his car. “Do I have a right to place my wallet on the roof of my car, go into my house, have lunch, take a nap and return to my car and find my wallet just where I placed it?”
One cannot conceive of a more misguided, misanthropic, and misogynistic attitude towards the sheer magnitude of the sexual assault epidemic throughout the US. He continues this depraved metaphor by saying, “I think I have every right to do so, but the real question is whether it would be a wise decision.” Williams, a college professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, is supposed to be a person deeply committed to providing a safe environment for all his students, including his female students – a responsibility which should be seriously questioned given the statements made in his editorial.
According to RAINN, one of the largest monitoring organizations in the US: “Among undergraduate students, 23.1% of females… experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.” As a college professor, Williams clearly has access to these kinds of statistics to inform his decision making process. Yet even so, he still felt comfortable saying, “Some college women get stoned, use foul language and dance suggestively.” He concludes this line of reasoning with, “I think they have a right to behave that way and not be raped or sexually assaulted. But just as in the example of my placing my wallet on the roof of my car, I’d ask whether it is wise behavior.”
“They have a right.” Not we all have the same rights, which should be applied equally. “They.”
Williams clearly has zero moral compunction blaming women for their own assaults – which has been the privilege of men like Williams since time immemorial. A privilege that allows our society to shamelessly blame the victim, while exculpating men from all responsibility for their own behaviors and actions. Hell, even being able to get this column in a city’s lead newspaper reinforces this very point.
The RTD should seriously reassess their editorial guidelines before giving space to men who believe women are responsible for the violence perpetuated against them. Any editorial suggestion from a contributor that supposes women are to blame for the actions of men legitimizes the ideas behind gender-based violence in very real ways. In a political age where we have a president who is an abuser of women, and powerful men from Harvey Weinstein to Roger Ailes slowly being exposed for their actions, the RTD should seek to lead by example, not try and subvert those committed to equality.