What the Left wants on race.
Given the Left’s monomaniacal obsession with fighting the evils of racism, you could be forgiven for thinking they have no greater commitment than its ultimate eradication. Heck, they even occasionally say so—when they’re not demonizing white people and demanding color-conscious policies in perpetuity, that is.
In truth, the Left will never voluntarily let go of the claim that systemic racism pervades America, that it is “part of our DNA that’s passed on,” as Barack Obama says. The widespread belief that America is racist greatly empowers the Left. Having successfully defined themselves as the party of Anti-Racism, they occupy the moral high ground in America. And from that vaunted perch, they can condemn and absolve at will. The louder they denounce racism, the louder they proclaim their innocence. The Right, for its part, is reduced to pathetic cries of “Democrats are the real racists!”
The Left will never admit it, but the end of “racism” would be an unmitigated disaster for them. It would rob them of their most powerful weapon—the accusation, however unfounded, of racism. It would deprive their actions—the violence, the censorship, the persecution—of their moral justification. And it would force them to confront some uncomfortable questions about the role of ghetto culture and progressive policies in holding blacks back.
So long as the Left controls the discourse, it’s going to be racism from here until the eye can see—and beyond. So long as the purported eradication of racism is the priority, the Right will never beat the Left at their own game. The more racist America is, the more urgent the fight against racism, the more exalted are those who fight this scourge (the Left), the more tarnished are those who defend America and its past (the Right).
By any objective assessment, systemic racism has long since been eliminated in America. There are no racist laws or policies anywhere on the books, as was the case for much of our history. No one but the most marginal of internet trolls openly calls for white rule. Racism in any historically recognizable form has not existed in America for decades.
In fact, every national institution of any significance is devoted to “diversity,” i.e., helping blacks. Under the guise of “affirmative action,” standards are lowered to admit and promote them. Most importantly, our fellow black citizens have been granted the greatest of privileges: they are absolved of collective moral responsibility for their actions. As the new Ta-Nehisi Coates, Ibram Kendi, likes to say: “there is nothing wrong with black people.” By contrast, entire academic disciplines are devoted to studying everything that is wrong with white people and whiteness.
And yet, for the Left, it’s always 1857 and the highest court of the land has just declared that the black man has “no rights which the white man [is] bound to respect.” Racial progress is either emphatically denied, said to be dwarfed by racist progress, or begrudgingly conceded in passing. “We have not ended racial caste in America,” Michelle Alexander writes in her best-selling The New Jim Crow, “we have merely redesigned it.”
For the Left, the widespread persistence of disparities in life outcomes between blacks and whites is proof positive that racism is alive and well. Racism, Kendi mindlessly asserts, is “the sole cause of racial disparities in this country and in the world at large.” No evidence is offered to prove that were it not for racism, the great mosaic of peoples, nations and groups that comprise humanity would all succeed and fail at the same rates in all endeavors across the entire globe.
This claim, however, is the foundation of the Left’s racial agenda (which is itself part of their broader identitarian agenda). An America free of racism is defined as an America in which black people are proportionally represented in all realms of life. Justice is thus redefined as equality of group outcomes—unless that still isn’t enough, in which case “equity” trots in.
No free society will, of course, ever produce equal outcomes across all its subgroups—to say nothing of their endless permutations (to meet the requirements of intersectionality). There is just too much real diversity to expect uniformity, especially in a multicultural republic such as ours that discourages assimilation into a mainstream. Equality of outcomes can only be brought about through totalitarianism. Hence, the Left’s ever-more illiberal policies on race.
Desirable positions in American life should now be awarded on the basis of race, regardless of merit and, increasingly, regardless even of basic competence. So long as a person of color gets the position, the Left is flexible on the means: selection standards can either be eliminated (e.g. the growing number of universities that no longer require applicants to submit test scores) or applied selectively (e.g. affirmative action). All that matters is that wherever we look, we see at least 13% African Americans.
Thirteen percent is the baseline—unless we are looking at undesirable life outcomes, in which case it’s the ceiling. Here too racial justice demands we eliminate or ignore the laws that produce negative disparities. Hence the push to abandon disciplinary standards in schools, to stop enforcing laws against petty crime, and now to abolish the police.
These policies will inexorably lead to more crime and violent deaths in black neighborhoods, and yet they are not deemed racist. Progressive policies on crime, as well as also on the family and education, that produce disparities are always exempt from the Left’s understanding of justice. In these cases, all that counts is the moral posturing.
Racial justice also demands a proportional distribution of wealth. How else will we close the black-white wealth gap? BLM calls for a “progressive restructuring of tax codes at the local, state, and federal level to ensure a radical and sustainable redistribution of wealth.” Racially-conscious expropriation would be another way to describe it.
At the deepest level, racial justice aims to provide our fellow black citizens with what Stokely Carmichael, the founder of Black Power, called “psychological equality.” Under the best of conditions, psychological equality between groups—no feelings of inferiority or superiority—is a most elusive goal. In an America context, where a majority-white country produced extraordinary achievements but also subjugated and demeaned blacks for centuries, it is near impossible. But it remains the goal, so honor must be redistributed: the oppressed must be exalted and their oppressors disparaged. The magic moment of racial justice forever recedes into the future.
Across the land, black accomplishments are celebrated in museums, movies and textbooks, often well beyond their worth (had George Washington Carver been white, he would have long since been forgotten). American and Western accomplishments, by contrast, are downplayed, said to have been stolen from blacks (“slavery built this country”) or falsely attributed to them. “Beethoven was as black as you and I,” Carmichael once told a mainly black audience, “but they don’t tell us that.”
To protect this edifice of lies, so-called “hate speech” must be censored. For the time being, public opinion and Big Tech police the public square to shame and censor dissenters. One day, America may go the way of Europe and criminalize hate speech. Such laws would not of course apply to non-whites. As Mari Matsuda, one of the leading critical race theorists in the country, has explained: “Expressions of hatred, revulsion, and anger directed against historically dominant-group members by subordinate-group members are not [to be] criminalized.”
Historically dominant-groups—i.e., whites, but above all straight white men—must be punished. They must not only welcome this punishment, but adopt a deferential pose vis-à-vis non-whites to atone for the sins of their fathers. Racial justice ultimately demands that the guilty, whose sins cannot be expiated, be punished and humiliated in perpetuity.