February 1, 2021 - 8:00am

I recently wrote about Enrique Tarrio, the Cuban-American leader of the Proud Boys, making the case that racial ideas, as propagated by academic experts, fail to explain his behaviour. My explanation was quite simple: he’s a grifter unencumbered by ideas of race. This past week, Tarrio once again made the news, as Reuters reported that from 2014 to 2015, he served as a prolific FBI informant. This latest development in the ridiculous Tarrio saga surprised absolutely no one in Miami, nor non-Miamian people of colour, but the educated set was once again shocked.

In the eyes of the thinking class, Tarrio was guilty of “multiracial whiteness”, a termed coined by Cristina Beltran, a New York University professor, to explain his behaviour as a Cuban-American who aligns himself with white supremacists. In an op-ed for The Washington Post this month, she wrote:

Multiracial whiteness reflects an understanding of whiteness as a political color and not simply a racial identity—a discriminatory worldview in which feelings of freedom and belonging are produced through the persecution and dehumanization of others.
- Cristina Beltran, Washington Post

The incongruency in the responses of people of colour (POC) and the “academic experts” like Beltran who claim to speak for them is instructive because the schism highlights the concept that seemingly drives all woke thinking when it relates to race— the noble savage. The noble savage is a literary stock character, a “brown” person who is innately good and has been corrupted by society, which is to say, white people.

Experts misunderstand Tarrio, and others like him, because they frame all POC as noble savages who don’t know any better and are often under the influence of “whiteness” or other such concepts. Stating that Tarrio is acting freely and not under the spell of esoteric racial concepts, is saying that he isn’t a noble savage, but instead a plain savage. The woke can’t say this for reasons of political correctness, but brown people who actually live among Tarrio types, have no problem stating the obvious and not attributing a petty schemer’s behaviour to “whiteness.”

The noble savage concept was also evident after the 2020 election, when a spate of articles appeared all at once stating that Trump’s improved performance among Hispanics could be heavily attributed to the fact that they’d been manipulated by “misinformation.” Even if memes and fake news did play a factor in Trump’s increases with Hispanics, the not-so-subtle subtext was clear: these poor, lowly — yet noble — brown people were simply misled.

This retainment of brown nobility is important to the woke expert class because their project isn’t about understanding POC motivations, but the inversion of the current order in which whiteness is the sickness that afflicts society and must be dismantled. If brown people are not noble, and whiteness has nothing to do with it, the woke worldview collapses.

The noble savage concept not only removes all agency from POC, but as a rhetorical device deployed by the woke, it annihilates the possibility for any honest racial discussion. Ultimately, treating POC like afflicted victims in need of saving is patronising. Until society can move beyond these reductive racial categories, it will not be able to understand figures like Enrique Tarrio for what he is: a grifting petty schemer.

Alex Perez is a Cuban-American writer based in Miami, and a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.