On her show Saturday, MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry explained to her dwindling audience that people need to watch themselves when they use terms like “hard worker,” especially if describing a white person. Now, it comes as no surprise to learn that liberals dislike the notion of hard work, but who could have guessed it could actually be offensive?
When guest Alfonso Aguilar said that incoming House Speaker Paul Ryan was a hard worker, Harris-Perry felt obliged to speak up.
“I just want to pause on one thing,” she said, “because I don’t disagree with you that I actually think Mr. Ryan is a great choice for this role. But I want us to be super careful when we use the language ‘hard worker.’ Because I actually keep an image of folks working in cotton fields on my office wall, because it is a reminder about what hard work looks like.”
“In the context of relative privilege,” she continued, “I just want to point out that when you talk about work-life balance and being a hard worker, the moms who don’t have health care who are working, we don’t call them hard workers. We call them failures, people who are sucking off the system.”
Weren’t we…weren’t we talking about Paul Ryan?
Harris-Perry’s interlude landed with a deafening thud, but we can’t just dismiss this as the ramblings of one radical lunatic. Harris-Perry is further out there than most Democrats, but not by much. She is the living embodiment of the progressive movement; watching her show is not much different than listening to a lecture from an academic liberal feminist in any of a thousand American universities.
So we can’t use the term “hard worker” to describe people because slaves worked harder, is that the deal? But then why bring up “moms who don’t have health care”? Do they work as hard as slaves did? What if we could prove objectively that there was a group of people who did work harder than slaves? Would it then becomes inappropriate to refer to slaves as hard workers? Just trying to work out the logic here.
A futile task, of course, because there is no coherent logic to this argument. In fact, Harris-Perry is not even trying to make a point. She was probably bored with so much talk about a white man, so her brain flew off into the more comfortable territory of black victimization. And hey, it’s her show. Her tens of fans were probably delighted.
But this incident is a microcosm of what American politics has become. Every time a white person opens their mouth to say anything even tangentially related to race, a legion of liberal writers take to their blogs. And readers eat it up, digesting each new morsel with overzealous relish. Look guys! A whole new way to feel guilty! A whole new way to feel oppressed! Aren’t we so damned enlightened?
We’re sending young men and women a lot of dangerous messages these days, but this one might be the worst of them. There is no success without hard work. If we decide that even mentioning hard work is somehow racially insensitive, our country’s future is in grave peril.