Picking on the powerless isn’t brave

Gary Younge in today’s Guardian takes issue with people who call it brave to defend popular orthodoxies and make statements of bigotry just because liberals might attack them, with particular reference to the “Larry Summers on women” affair and the Danish cartoon scandal:

What, after all, is “brave” about supporting the policies of both your government and the sole global superpower against a country that posed no threat? Likewise, when David Goodhart, the editor of Prospect magazine, published his blueprint for racial exclusion two years ago (“To put it bluntly,” he wrote, “most of us prefer our own kind”), he was praised for being “bold”. As though maligning diversity constituted an act of courage in a country where black people are overwhelmingly more likely to be stopped, searched, jailed, murdered in jail, unemployed and marginalised. It is not the validity of these arguments that is at issue here but the characterisation of those who make them as audacious that is problematic.

To align yourself with the powerful and then take aim at the powerless takes not one ounce of valour. To prop up prevailing hierarchies and orthodoxies rather than challenge them demands not a scintilla of bravery. True, like Summers, you may run into trouble. But just look who’s covering your back. With the prevailing winds of war, prejudice or the state on your side, the odds are with you.

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