I’m starting to think maybe the College Board should never have removed the analogy section from the SAT. Younger readers won’t remember this, but once upon a time, it used to give people fits.
The analogy questions would present the test-taker with two things that were being related to each other — for instance, “cold is to ice cream” (written, cold:ice cream). Then you would be tasked with picking a second combination from among the answers, which was most akin to the first.
And I hated them, but I’m beginning to rethink my emotions on the matter.
I mean, I know they were often culture-bound and biased in favor of rich folks, with questions not about cold and ice cream, but rather, about boats and regattas. Yet, however unfair they might have been, if I hear one more white person analogize some minor inconvenience in their lives to the Holocaust, slavery, or lynching, I’m gonna be leading the charge to bring them back.
Because when someone asks: “COVID lockdowns are to public health as something is to something,” the answer is most assuredly not, “as gas chambers are to Treblinka.”
Likewise, if the question begins with, “Being banned from YouTube is to saying racist shit as something is to something,” you can rest assured, “as being hanged from a tree is to looking a white man in the eye” will not be the one you should pick.
That I need to explain this would be stunning if it weren’t so maddeningly typical.
Because apparently, perspective is to white America as nutrition is to candy corn.
Or to put it in Jeopardy terms: “What is, utterly lacking, Alex?”
It’s been a recurring theme amid the current pandemic.
As with Aryan Rage Barbie Tomi Lahren, who tweeted that compliance with social distancing measures was “starting to look a whole lot like willful slavery.” Absolutely, because agreeing to stand six feet from another person and wear a mask at Publix is very similar to presenting oneself at an auction block and begging Master William to buy you and separate your family.
Or like the Michigan barber cited for cutting hair during a lockdown protest who then analogized the fine to being sent to a Nazi extermination camp, but insists he will “not be placed in a cattle car.” This will come as quite a disappointment to Governor Gretchen Whitmer, whose political platform has long involved shipping the state’s barbers to Auschwitz in the event of a global health emergency.
Or the anti-lockdown protesters in Illinois who marched with signs that read “Heil Pritzker,” because apparently, Hitler is to Munich as the Jewish Governor is to Springfield.
Or a Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice who, having apparently once taken an LSAT that also lacked a proper analogies section, criticized the state’s coronavirus stay-at-home order, likening it to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War Two. Bingo, because having to shelter in place in your own home is pretty much indistinguishable from having that home confiscated by authorities, your business closed down, and then being sent to the desert and held behind barbed wire for a couple of years.
Or the Alaska legislator who suggested that testing state officials and giving them stickers signifying they were virus-free before allowing them to return to work was akin to making Jews wear yellow stars in Nazi Germany. When a Jewish lawmaker took umbrage, given a few notable differences between COVID testing and the Holocaust, the initial offender insisted Hitler wasn’t a white supremacist (despite his insistence on the superiority of the white race), but had merely been afraid of Jews. So, ya know, it was sorta the Jews’ fault. Good to know.
In a similar vein, others have likened those opposed to social distancing measures with civil rights heroes, thereby suggesting the measures themselves are akin to racial oppression.
To wit, “economist” and Trump adviser, Stephen Moore, who refers to anti-lockdown demonstrators as “the modern-day Rosa Parks,” which makes total sense. After all, being made to ride in the back of the bus because of your skin color is precisely the same as not being able to get endless salad and breadsticks at Olive Garden.
And look, I know COVID is making people a bit stir crazy, so perhaps I should be willing to cut folks some slack. I mean, it’s not as if quarantine is a good time to read a history book or learn how to use that newfangled Google machine on your magic backlit typewriter doodad. But the problem with the whole slack-cutting thing is that nothing about this shitty analogy habit is new. We white folks have been on this ride for a while.
For instance, Senator (and ophthalmologist) Rand Paul has said that proclaiming health care a right makes every doctor a slave. Because yes, if we decide children are entitled to asthma medication, even if they can’t afford it, it’s only a matter of time until we line up all the physicians and send them on a transatlantic voyage in the acrid hull of a ship covered in their own feces and vomit, only to whip them whenever they complain. And we will definitely start with the eye doctors.
Or Glenn Beck, who once predicted, totally not insanely, that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if dogs and water cannons were soon trained on conservatives — as they once were on black children in Birmingham — for opposing things like the Affordable Care Act. And to be sure, I think we can all remember that happening, right after Obama confiscated all the guns, implemented Sharia Law and forced Glenn Beck to pray five times a day facing Mecca.
Or Donald Trump, who likened impeachment to lynching and who knows about lynching, having once basically called for it in the case of the Central Park 5 — guys who, unlike Donald Trump, didn’t do the crimes for which they were accused.
And lest we think white folks’ problems with analogies are only a conservative affliction, rest assured, no less a progressive than Bernie Sanders has said the same stupid shit.
In 1976, for instance, Sanders said that when a Vermont company was sold without worker approval that year, the company’s workers were being treated basically “the way black people in this country were treated when there was slavery.” No Trotsky, no.
And in 1977, he said that anyone working in the service economy was basically a slave too. It’s an argument with which no rational person could disagree. As Bernie well knows, downtown Burlington is teeming with enslaved baristas, bartenders, and vegan pastry chefs. And all of them are facing imminent servitude by angry customers who ordered their lattes with almond milk, their bourbon neat and their scones with cashew frosting, only to be given soy, crushed ice, and coconut instead — unreliable serfs.
Look, I get it. When you’re used to privilege and the more or less untrammeled ability to come and go as you please, being asked to think about public health and the common good, or just to wait a few more weeks to get back to Hot Yoga, feels like oppression. And when people like you weren’t actually bought and sold but instead were told the world was your oyster, to find yourself working for minimum wage doesn’t just suck, it seems comparable to bondage.
But can we just dial it back a notch or two?
If lockdowns offend your libertarian sensibilities and make you want to fly your Gadsden flag, go for it. If they make you want to haul out your Confederate flag or American flag (and even fly them together because as we’ve already determined, history is not your best subject), so be it, Scott Baio.
Just make sure that when you do so, you limit your analogies to things that are actually analogous.
Like, for instance, here’s a good one:
“Having to wear a mask in a restaurant to avoid spreading germs is just like having to wear shoes in a restaurant to avoid spreading germs!”
Indeed, and I can barely contain my indignation.