Matthew Desmond and Mustafa Emirbayer, sociologists, assert that there are five main fallacies that surround discussions on race. The ahistorical fallacy states that if you are not the one who has actually perpetrated the injustice, you should not be held accountable. According to this mindset, since we did not enslave black people or kick Indians off of their land, we are inherently not racist or at fault for these actions.
The other day in one of my classes, we were discussing a book on American Indian thought compared to mainstream American thought. A white male in the class took great offense to every single criticism of American culture, and finally developed the courage to state that he was uncomfortable with the ideas we were discussing. He thought that it was unfair for this American Indian author to privilege his own culture over what is commonly perceived as white culture because it is racist, and that he should not have to be subject to racism by any other group because he himself was not a racist.
Situations like this illustrate how the fallacies play into our everyday lives. Just because this boy had not forced American Indians down the Trail of Tears himself, he assumed that there was no blame that could be placed on him. He never considered the idea that there are still racist and discriminatory structures and thoughts in place against nonwhites in our society. He never considered the idea that he is continuing to reap the benefits of what his ancestors did. He never considered his white privilege.
I have been thinking about this fallacy a lot lately in relation to the pieces we have been reading, because much of this is history that I have never learned about regarding the development of race and whiteness in our society. I think it would be very easy to look right past it, to think that since I was not a part of it that I should not have to learn and internalize and feel guilty for it. I think that is how many of the people in this nation live their day to day lives and escape responsibility. However, as easy as that might seem, it would be perpetrating the ahistorical fallacy. This idea is fallacious for a reason, and it is beyond frustrating to find people at this institution full of smart people that continue to abide by it in such an aggressive manner.