Now that racism has been outlawed in business, and racists have been driven from the public square, you don’t witness much racism in America. Being racist is a bad move socially and career-wise. That’s good.
But black achievement in America still lags badly behind white, Asian and Hispanic achievement. The black illegitimacy rate is triple the white rate and the black murder rate is 7x the white rate. Both figures are worse than before affirmative action, worse than before the Great Society programs of the 60s and 70s, and even worse than the days of Jim Crow laws.
The latest explanation for this continued malaise is that there’s a type of racism that you can’t see, but can only feel, and it’s getting worse. They call it “systemic racism.”
Systemic racism in America is like water to a fish in a pond. It’s everywhere, but undetectable except in its effect. That effect is to keep American blacks uniquely – not Asians or Hispanics or even black African immigrants – oppressed.
A scientific sounding name has been assigned to this: “Critical Race Theory.” The people who dreamed up the name ironically seem to think that calling it a “theory” makes it true. As in, “It’s like Einstein’s theory of relativity and Darwin’s theory of evolution. It’s a scientific theory, you know.”
CRT was originally an ordinary academic idea that people tend to see their world through the prism of race. The racists and race-baiters of the world twisted that uncontroversial idea into the notion that white people systemically persecute black people, even as the white people favor the black people in admissions, hiring and promotions. The racists and race-baiters now have persuaded ordinary well-intentioned white people to chant such nonsense as, “I’m a racist.”
There’s less to this conspicuous white show of self-flagellation than meets the eye. When questioned about their racism, such people recite, catechism-like, that everybody sees things through the prism of race, and so everybody is a racist.
So all they’re really confessing is that they’re racist just like everyone else. But they think they’re actually a little better than the other racists because, unlike the others, they admit to their racism.
It reminds me of certain religious people who go around advertising that they’re sinners, just like everyone else. But they imply that they’re a little better than the other sinners because, unlike the others, they admit they’re sinners.
I submit that the premise of the racism-admitters is correct but their conclusion is erroneous.
Their premise that humans see things through the prism of race is correct. The person who says “I don’t even notice a person’s skin color” is obviously lying. We do notice skin colors. There are good anthropological reasons for that. Hominids who didn’t distrust hominids who looked different were often invited over for dinner.
But the conclusion does not follow the premise. Seeing things through the prism of race may make us racists in an anthropological sense but it doesn’t make us racists in an evil societal sense.
There are racists and there are racists. Yes, we all (white, black and other shades) see the world to some extent through the prism of race, just as we see the world to some extent through the prism of our gender, our height, our weight and our socio-economic background. It’s a behavioral instinct rooted in our DNA.
But such instincts do not make us evil racists, misogynists, misandrists, dwarf-tossers, fat shamers or snobs. What does make us those things is when we allow our primitive behavioral instinct to control our modern feelings and actions. Civilized people don’t let that happen. They use their minds to control their racist instincts, just as they control their violence, anger, procreation and other animal instincts.
The erroneous conclusion that we don’t control our racism instinct – that we’re all racist because we all see the world through the prism of race – is destructive in several ways.
First, it dilutes the meaning of racism. If everyone is racist, then nobody is. Racism becomes seen as the ordinary human condition. It’s normalized. And then the real racists – the rare white supremists and Islamic (and European and American) Jew-haters and the Black Panther types – are given cover.
Second, stating that everyone is a racist implies and sometimes outright states a corollary that “everyone” doesn’t actually mean everyone. It doesn’t include non-whites. Non-whites cannot be racist, says this corollary.
But that corollary can’t be right. If racism is embedded in humans anthropologically, then it’s equally embedded in whites, blacks and Asians. Worse, that false corollary either (1) dehumanizes blacks and Asians by implying that they’re not part of the world of “everybody” or (2) condescends blacks and Asians by implying that while they’re racist like everyone else, only whites are strong enough to bear the label.
Third, this notion that whites systemically but secretly persecute blacks even as they formally favor them undermines black achievement. It sends a powerful message to blacks that the system is stacked against them and that their failings are not their fault.
The way to encourage achievement by any group is to celebrate their achievements, not to pound into them the notion that they’re permanent victims for whom achievement is impossible.
Fourth, amplifying this premise – that race is a prism through which people sometimes see the world – into this conclusion that race-is-destiny, sets the stage for governance by race. Like so much in this field, this approach is sufficiently bad that it has earned a euphemism. The euphemism is “Identity Politics.”
And so we’ve officially started judging people by the color of their skin rather than the content of their character. Today, anti-racism not only permits but perversely requires racial discrimination — all while denying and disguising it.
Interestingly, this dishonest act of anti-intellectualism is committed most often by the intellectual elites. In academia and big corporations, it’s official policy. Their unfair and immoral policy to subordinate character – or merit – to skin color does not bode well for them. Nor does it bode well for science, culture, mathematics, religion, philosophy, engineering or anything else where there is such a thing as good versus bad, right versus wrong, truth versus falseness and success versus failure.
Stated another way, abolishing merit will produce less of it and less of the advances that depend on it – which are pretty much all of them.
Good white people may feel extra good about themselves for buying into the bunk that they, alone among the races, are innately and irredeemably racist merely because they see through the prism of race. But this self-indulgent feel-goodery is expensive. It’s harmful to themselves, to our culture and to the non-whites that are the supposed beneficiaries of it.
Such people are usually well-intentioned. But for the good of humanity, I wish they would start thinking with their heads and not their hearts.
That leaves the question, what do we do about black underachievement? I don’t know what the answer is. (By the way, I don’t think the problem is one of IQ, as the left implies in their insistence that black achievement be measured on a scale that accounts for their race.)
But I do know what the answer to this problem is not. It’s not to do more of the same. It’s not to continue the same failed policies that have enabled and perpetuated it for over half a century.
This is remarkably insightful. We’ll done.
Well said. You really need a wider audience Glenn. Can I share this on FB or will you? I know you are not a fan.
I don’t do FB, but I have no objection to people sharing my work there (or elsewhere).
Thomas Sowell has detailed exactly why blacks are going in the wrong direction: Liberalism. Everything was on the right trajectory until LBJ decided to put blacks on a new plantation: The Government Plantation. Starting in 63 and 64 it all went to hell and has only been getting worse. How many were killed this weekend in Chicago?
A Great Society? Me think not.
The Government Plantation.——–Too many went willingly!
Fathers missing from the home are at the heart of the decay.
“Good white people . . . buying into the bunk . . . see through the prism of race.” I find myself wondering whether they don’t also see through “the prism of Trump,” on whom they have projected all the evils that they think they need to cleanse themselves of. I have no shortage of predominantly cultured white neighbors in the Aspen area who tirelessly proclaim the Orange Man a Nativist, a Nazi, a white supremacist who thinks that a few conventional racists at Charlottesville are “good people.” I find nothing “well intentioned” about such people.
Twain observed of racial differences that we’re all human beings, and you can’t get any worse than that. That doesn’t stop us from trying.
There is an answer but people in general don’t like it. We are all racist. One party hates the other, fans of one team hate the other, Orthodox hate the Muslims, educated turn up their noses to the blue collars, Hutus kill the Tutsis, Arabs hate the Jews, northern Irish fight the southern Irish, Chinese round up the Uighurs for slave labor, perish the thought…Aspenites dismiss those from Rifle. Color of skin has little to do with it. An Orthodox (in name only) architect accompanied me to a fledgling church service in Korce, Albania a few year ago. He was educated and informed me of the caste system in Albania. Orthodox, Muslim, Educated, Uneducated and Gypsies were peoples that were all prejudiced against each other. When we left the church service my friend was shaking his head, what has you baffled I asked and his answer was THE ANSWER. He said, “I recognized Orthodox people, Muslims, educated, uneducated and gypsies…..150 of them singing, praying and listening together as they were seated next to each other. You will notice in the 2nd Chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians that people at odds with each other….that actually hated each other, are brought together when they become believers in Christ. Notice verse 14. Yes, I know that there are factions in Christianity because Christianity is populated with people who are in the process of trying to become more like Christ and for some it takes a while. The answer is “one at a time”.
In Christ there is no north or south, in Him no east or west . . . .
Conversely, as I heard Andrew Klavan say recently, The Devil doesn’t care who does the hating, as long as the hating gets done.
The day that this country found it acceptable for blacks to speak a non acceptable form of English, was the day we signaled that it wasn’t necessary to obtain and achieve an education, nor was it needed. The country elevated an uneducated group to acceptable standards, and it was also the day another weight was laid on the backs of most blacks. It was now acceptable to not have a passable education. In fact black speak became so in, that whites started to imitate them using some of their street slang. It also signaled to blacks that an education wasn’t “cool”! It wasn’t really necessary! The hood, the gang, were cool. Working wasn’t all that cool either. In every society that has succeed, higher levels education have always been a must. We don’t help elevate black lives by bowing down to Rap Music, black slang, strange black clothing fads (pants at crack level), untied shoes, all the things we have watched come and go over the years now. Blacks like any other group need to be admired for the achievements they make that lift them, and the rest of society up. Black in-tact families are to be admired, Black children succeeding in school are to be admired, and we should be working to make those things happen and stressing their importance. Honesty, and achievement should reign!
Mostly agree, except about language. I enjoy the vitality and playfulness of various creoles spoken in this country a lot more than ”standard” English which uses adjectives for adverbs, bends over backwards to avoid gender-specific pronouns, and mangles relative clauses. If moral clarity depends on linguistic clarity, then we’re all in trouble. (Except Glenn, who writes well! 😀)
While I do not consider myself an Objectivist … I’ve always liked this quote:
“The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.”
– Ayn Rand
Very well written.
Pingback: If everybody is racist, then nobody is
I woke up very early this morning with an idea. It occurred to me that the Eastern philosophy of “duality” in all things is correct. Yin/Yang, Light/Dark, Racism/Inferiority complex, etc. By that I don’t mean that racists have inferiority complexes, though they might, I mean that anyone that judges someone else to be racist has an inferiority complex. The now-famous book “White Fragility” needs a companion piece titled “OTWIC: Other Than White Inferiority Complex”. Every argument for the existence of “systemic racism” can be countered with the existence of an inferiority complex.
Interesting observation. It’s certainly true that publicly calling oneself a racist is to engage in virtue signaling, and that people who feel a need to signal their virtue (as opposed to simply living virtuous lives) are insecure about their virtue.
When you look at the starting lineup at any Olympics foot race, what enters your mind? Race, of course. The logical conclusion if you ask the obvious question is that there are specific genetic racial differences that result in different characteristics. It is nature, not nurture working here. Eons of history of humans has resulted in distinct stratification between races as well if you care to look.
True enough, but I’m not sure of the relevance to this discussion. The 19th century observation of such “distinct stratification” led to theories such as Manifest Destiny, which I think we all agree is “racist.” It seems to me that the subject of Glenn’s essay concerns the disposition of the human heart, regardless of the biological or anthropological origins of our nature.
You nailed this one Glenn. Especially concerning “seeing color”. I hate to hear people say they don’t see color. We all see color, and clothes, and ears that stick out, and tattoos, and short and tall, and everything and anything that makes another person unique. It can’t be any other way. So yes, BIPOC, I see your color, and I don’t care. I don’t see your color as a badge of victim hood. You still remain, as do I and every other human on this earth, a member of the smallest minority-the individual.
It is a binary struggle between the culture of Good vs. a culture of Evil. Its not a racial struggle. All races line up behind both cultural positions yet the leftist divide us racially.
It really is that simple, isn’t it?