Earlier this month, Robert Huber wrote an extensive article for Philadelphia Magazine on the state of Being White in Philly. "Whites, race, class, and the things that never get said." (Naturally, I've provided this additional bold statement on Huber's post for the purposes of clarification in case the title doesn't speak for itself. It is, after all, in the subtitle of the piece where the magic really happens, don't-cha-know.) It's a lot to absorb, maybe. For now, despair not the vast wasteland of things that never get said. Gracious. Where to even begin with that – it leaves us a lot of unexplored territory. Still, that "whites, race and class" part? Edgy, right?
Edgy, indeed. I swear; we are such a well-trained society. Pavlovian in our reaction to all things gender or race based. Ready to pounce with our properly apportioned response on the red meat dangled before us. Well, I'm sorry. I've misplaced my smelling salts and at any rate, we'll tolerate no slum prudery around here. Conservatives might be cave dwellers, but we can certainly take on a race discussion with the best of the Left and without being led into the quagmire of straw man arguments. Let us see what we can do with the things that never get said.
As it has been framed by Philadelphia Magazine, the Being White in Philly article by Mr. Huber sought to push the city of Philadelphia's dialog on race relations in a new direction by focusing on the oft perceived but rarely reflected "white experience." Though the article itself achieved perhaps less acuity than controversy, more interesting than the article itself was the generalized progressive reaction to it.
This is not to say that Huber's piece wasn't interesting. It was…you know, the way an old episode of Law and Order, with its predetermined narrative and coercion of melodrama is interesting. Interesting as long as you recognize you're being worked over. And you always know what you are going to get when you start with great provocation in the title or at very least the subtitle. I overuse this term perhaps, but Being White in Philly – like nearly any media experience in our pop-culture society – is something of a passion play that was created with cherry-picked interviews which were specifically selected to tease out the victimhood that lives in the heart of Everyman.
Edgy in tone and topic and yet superficial to a larger problem that resides between the races, Huber seemed content to imbue his reader with the coma-inducing indolence of self-pity and persecution without ever really delving into what the point of his documented animosity actually is. Truly, stories about sheepish "white people" who have suffered silently at the hands of their tormentors speak less about the character of the bullies and more about the emotional uncertainty of the victims.
But this is where the story gets good, because it was not enough that Huber gave us a treatise on the banality of milquetoast. The antiphon to Huber's piece came in the form of government intervention by the Mayor of Philadelphia – Mayor Michael Nutter – who has now asked for an investigation by the Philadelphia Human Relations Commission into the matter of Philadelphia Magazine's insensitivity in its perpetuation of harmful race stereotypes, proving Huber's barely executed point that when it comes to race, there are simply things that one cannot say without the promise of reprisal. As reported in The Blaze, Nutter made clear his disapproval over publication's tone and attitude regarding race relations:
"This month Philadelphia Magazine has sunk to a new low even for a publication that has long pretended that its suburban readers were the only citizens civically engaged and socially active in the Philadelphia area," Nutter wrote in a letter to the Philadelphia Human Relations Commission.
The commission signaled its agreement of Mayor Nutter's opinion (yes, he is a democrat as if that actually required clarification…but then again, maybe it does in consideration of Michael Bloomberg's reign of enlightenment) – this again from the Blaze article:
And the commission agreed with the mayor's assessment, with Rue Landau, the organization's executive director, decrying racial insensitivity and "perpetuation of harmful stereotypes" that were allegedly present in the article. The commission has agreed to explore racial issues in the city as a result of the clash, with Landau promising to "take up the mayor's charge."
They agreed? Really? Wow. Because this wasn't the raison d'etre of Philadelphia Human Relations Commission in the first pace – to take on the negatives rights of government and flip our understanding of freedom and constitutionally protected liberty on its head? Pardon me as I muster my surprise. Even the name of this bureaucratic nightmare reeks like something out of Witness.
Isn't that funny? I can't watch a thirty second commercial without being marginalized with ethnic or gender stereotyping, but the commission is taking up the charge against Robert Huber's First Amendment rights because he wrote a muddled melodrama on race relations. Go figure.
Forget the totalitarian grip that Mayor Bloomberg has on your Big Gulp for a moment. Michael Nutter may, in fact, have reached the apex of machine politics with his proclamation on racial insensitivity, and he barely broke a sweat in doing so. Nutter not only offers a fist bump for Mayor Rahm Emanuel's contributions to authoritarianism regarding Emanuel's Chick-fil-A tirade on the kind of thought leaders that are permitted to do business in Chicago but he takes that absolutism and doubles down with his own call to action against free speech. I shudder to think what Mayor Villaraigosa of Los Angeles will do for the curtain call.
Well, in spite of so many things that are being left unsaid, you've gotta hand it to Mayor Nutter for giving form to a new socio-economic theory in American governance. Surely, if the states represent America's laboratories of experiment in democracy then metropolises are most certainly the laboratories of experiment in fascism.