One of many New Yorkerish sentences in a New Yorker piece grappling with the way playing the race card backfires. And I mixed my metaphors knowingly and with intent to be annoying, because I don't think The New Yorker — famous for its "Block That Metaphor" squibs — noticed it mixed metaphors of eyesight, martial arts, boating, script-writing, and portraiture.
IN THE COMMENTS: Henry says:
I'm trying to figure out the point of the word "specifically."My offhand theory would be that "specifically racial offenses" are incidents where the use of race is explicit or at least implicit and intended, to be contrasted with pervasive disparities that can be perceived or understood to have a racial aspect, like incarceration or poverty or inadequate education. It's exasperating to comb through the author's tangled prose, but here are a couple sentences than might support my theory:
That seems to imply the existence of "vaguely racial offenses" which by definition must be even more prevalent than the specific ones. The world is awash in the brickbats of hamhanded script-flippers.
[Melissa] Harris-Perry’s apology was striking precisely because we inhabit a hallucinatory moment in which the lines of power, inequality, and, yes, victimhood are blurred. Untouched is the higher standard for those confronting real grievances, the kinds rooted in systemic, empirical inequalities, not the imaginings of the angry entitled.I love the use of "precisely." It serves a function similar to "specifically." And here we are, living within a hallucination full of blurred lines. I guess that first sentence means that if anyone says anything at all clear, like Harris-Perry's apology, it's striking. In a world of blurred hallucination, we're surprised to discern anything.
Now, what's going on in the next sentence? What is "untouched"? Harris-Perry apologized for her specific racial offense, but there are also the "real grievances," things that are more important, but harder to discern. The real grievances are the "systemic, empirical inequalities," but they're nonspecific, so thoroughly woven into everything that if you try to point them out, people will hold you to a "higher standard." Instead of talking about what really matters, we pay attention to the wrong victims, the upstart victims, like Mitt Romney, who's able easily to command our concern, because of the specificity of Harris-Perry's offense.
Okay, I think I untangled that, and I do see the author's point. His name is Jelani Cobb, and I think for whatever reason, he's decided it's brilliant to write like that, and The New Yorker is refraining from the tough work of word editing, for which it was once renowned.