Recently I had a discussion with a professor in training regarding history and approaches to it. Though our fields are different, both are subject to a “post-imperial” discourse. (Latin America and East Asia, respectively, for those who do not know) Though he tends to favour the post-imperialist approach, he stated that it has its own number of defects — namely that it tends to pressure people not from that cultural background to avoid studying it on the ground that to understand a culture, one must come from a culture. We were in agreement that this was too extreme.
It would seem that this mentality brings up a new sort of racism — a revised racial exclusivity in which the “other” can be neither scrutinised nor fully studied. Rather than promoting cross-cultural understanding in any meaningful way, white-wash is applied to one and the other is subject to unquestionable rights to vilify. To clarify this, less developed regions such as Latin America, Africa, and South Asia are not to have their historical record or traditional defects questioned while developed regions such as North America, the UK, Europe, and Japan are subject to having their histories scrutinised and subject to unfair, unfounded commentaries and these are to be respected as “new approaches”.
This does not apply only to history. I recently had a rather severe falling out with a classmate over the nature of linguistics and their application. I knew that this man is in many respects a racist and does little to hide this fact, as he is of Chinese ancestry this is not to be challenged as he is allowed to be as racist as he wishes. The nature of our falling out was in how to classify languages. Cantonese, Mandarin, Hoklo, and Hakka, among others, are categorised as different languages within the family of Chinese languages, not dialects. This is a result of the fact that they evolved independently of each other. While language classification is at times arbitrary and imperfect, general guidelines are usually followed. He did not wish to accept this fact and said that these guidelines were set up by “ignorant whites who don’t have a clue” and said that he can back his thesis up by saying a single word in Cantonese and then in Mandarin. (The word was “you”) (Quite, German, Danish, Italian, and Portuguese forms of “you” are even closer)