Omar’s Comments On White Men Aren’t Racist, But They Are Dangerous By David Marcus for The Federalist
GNN Note – Every time Ilhan Omar makes it easy to point out exactly how dangerous she is to this country we are going to do so.
What started as an ironic rhetorical tool has become a real belief among many that white men are inherently more dangerous than any other group.
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Last week, controversy erupted over an edited clip from a 2016 Al Jazeera interview with U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) when she was a state assemblywoman. In the video, while answering a question of whether conservatives have legitimate fears of Islamic terrorism and therefore justification for measures to stop it, she appears to say that white men are in fact a greater threat.
Here is her full answer: “I would say our country should be more fearful of white men across our country because they are actually causing most of the deaths within this country, and so if fear was the driving force of policies to keep America safe, Americans safe inside of this country, we should be profiling, monitoring, and creating policies to fight the radicalization of white men.”
Over at Reason, Robby Soave argues that this context shows that Omar is not saying anything racist, but instead that conservatives are being hypocritical when analyzing the threats from different groups. I agree with Soave that the remarks are not racist, but I think he’s being a bit too generous in his full-throated exoneration of the statement. The comments are not racist, but they are dangerous.
Omar was using an ironic rhetorical tool to make her point. In 2016 and the years leading up to it, this was an extremely common rhetorical device among progressives on social media. In 2016 I described it, and how it transforms into actual beliefs:
In the past year, all of the following headlines have appeared, in well-read publications:
- The White Guy Problem
- White Men Must be Stopped: The Very Future of Mankind Depends on It
- I Don’t Know What To Do With Good White People
- Ten Things White People Need To Stop Saying
- Dear White People: Here’s a List of Things We’d Wish You’d Stop Doing
What is new is the direct indictment of white people as a race. This happened through a strange rhetorical transformation over the past few years. At first, “white men are our greatest threat” postings tended to be ironic, a way of putting the racist shoe on the other foot. They were meant to show that blaming an entire race for the harmful actions of a few individuals is senseless.
Then the tenor changed. What started as irony turned into an actual belief that white people, specifically white men, are more dangerous and immoral than any other people. Loosely backed up by historical inequities and disparities in mass shootings, this position has begun to take a serious foothold.
One of the tricky things about irony as a rhetorical device is that it only works if there is some element of truth in the ironic statement. Although Soave might be correct that Omar is talking more about conservatives’ hypocrisy than the violent tendencies of white men as a group, she is pretty clearly doing both.