The Work of the Witch-Sniffers Will Never be Over
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As I’ve mentioned before, Vallejo, CA has been perhaps the most racially diverse town in America since Sly and the Family Stone formed there a half century ago. (And who has been more of a paragon over the years of bourgeois respectability and fulfilled potential than Sly Stone?) But even the healing balm of Diversity can’t keep some Deplorable-Americans in Vallejo from the crime of Noticing. In fact, as the New York Times‘ black reporter on blackness reports, maybe Diversity even encourages Deplorables to Notice by, to coin a phrase, rubbing their noses in Diversity. From the New York Times:

‘Nothing Against You’: For a Black Man Covering Race, the Story Is Never Far From Home

By JOHN ELIGON NOV. 24, 2017

VALLEJO, Calif. — The question, I thought, was harmless enough.

“Tell me how being in such a diverse community has influenced you in your life,” I asked Fred Hatfield as we sat at the counter of a diner here.

By the time I met Mr. Hatfield, who is 60 and white, I had already asked numerous Vallejo residents the same question, for this story that I wrote. Vallejo is one of the most demographically diverse cities in the United States, and as a reporter covering race for The New York Times I wondered whether there was more harmony and understanding here than elsewhere in the country. …

But I got a dimmer view from Mr. Hatfield. He said that most of the “gangbangers” in Vallejo were people of color, and he thought that I, a black man, was up to no good when he first saw me.

“There’s a lot of negativity involved with it, I’ll tell you right now,” Mr. Hatfield said of Vallejo’s diversity as he tucked into a $7.59 breakfast special of eggs over easy, toast, bacon and potatoes with chives.

Mr. Hatfield’s disparaging remarks about minorities and his quickness to stereotype me underscored a truth about covering race in America as a black man: The story is never far from home. That usually means white people are extra polite with me when giving their thoughts about black people, while black people tend toward frankness when we discuss race.

Mr. Hatfield, to be clear, was very much an exception in Vallejo in terms of his blunt bias. But to an extreme degree, he represented a surprising paradox I found here. Diversity, it seemed, makes people feel comfortable using stereotypes and expressing biases. Making fun of how Asians speak? It’s no problem, the thinking goes, because I have Asian friends.

Mr. Hatfield explained that when the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, once the beating heart of Vallejo’s economy, closed in the mid-1990s, “they encouraged Section 8 housing, and you know what that brings. And not the color of your skin; it just brings the type of people that take advantage of the situation and they deal drugs and they prostitute, that sort of thing.”

He described Vallejo as having once been “a hard-working, redneck kind of a blue-collar town,” and he reiterated that race did not factor into his perceptions of the city. “As far as I’m concerned, I grew up in this town and I have a lot of friends that are all different nationalities. But bad is bad.”

“Are the bad people usually a certain race?” I asked.

“Not necessarily,” he said. “Mostly, what makes the trouble is the gangbangers, and in this town you got blacks, you got Mexicans and you got Asians. You got all three of them. You look around, you see the gang tags. And you’re a pretty hip cat, you know what’s up. And those are the people that cause the problems generally — in every community, not just here.”

As I pressed him further, Mr. Hatfield said he did believe most of the troublemakers in Vallejo were people of color, but he again wanted me to know that he was not a racist.

“Some of my oldest and dearest friends are black guys,” he insisted.

Still, he said later that growing up around a lot of nonwhite people here “gave me a negative attitude toward certain individuals and certain racial groups.”

So, when you think about it, this is good news for the countless people in the Diversity Industry, like reporter Eligon. They must worry that if after every town in America has been demographically diversificated like Vallejo, their work will be done.

But then what will they do? Fortunately, as Mr. Eligon is starting to realize, their work will never be done. There will still be members of the Legacy Majority who Notice, and their Deplorableness will demand sniffing out by professional witch-sniffers like Eligon.

The Diversity industry is a self-licking ice cream cone.

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