Friday, May 25, 2018

Deepening Contradictions: Token Pinkerite Acolyte Buoyed Up By The Alt-White

quillette |  There’s no reason to think that the definition of racism will stop expanding any time soon. And there’s no reason to think that progressives will ever stop demanding institutional reforms to fix racism—up to and including attempts to reform our subconscious minds with such things as mandatory implicit bias trainings. In a BBC feature on racism, the acclaimed poet Benjamin Zephaniah remarked, “laws can control people’s actions, but they can’t control people’s thoughts. As racism becomes more subtle, we need to keep pressuring our institutions to change.”

Luckily, he’s right that laws can’t reach into our subconscious minds, since anti-bias trainings don’t seem to work. But Zephaniah’s remark would have sounded alien to the Civil Rights leaders of yesteryear. In the words of political scientist Adolph Reed,
Black political debate and action through the early 1960s focused on concrete issues—employment, housing, wages, unionization, discrimination in specific venues and domains—rather than an abstract “racism.” It was only in the late 1960s and 1970s, after the legislative victories that defeated southern apartheid and restored black Americans’ full citizenship rights, that “racism” was advanced as the default explanation for inequalities that appear as racial disparities.
If the early 1960s were about reaching the mountaintop, then the modern era is about running on the Treadmill. Coates’s refrain, “resistance must be its own reward,” has become the watchword of the movement.13

The War on Racism, though intended to be won by those prosecuting it, will, in practice, continue indefinitely. This is because the stated goals of progressives, however sincerely held, are so apocalyptic, so vague, and so total as to guarantee that they will never be met. One often hears calls to “end white supremacy,” for instance. But what “ending white supremacy” would look like in a country where whites are already out-earned by several dark-skinned ethnic groups (Indian-Americans top the list by a large margin) is never explained. I would not be the first to point out the parallels between progressive goals and religious eschatology. Coates, for instance, professes to be an atheist, but tweak a few details and the Rapture becomes Reparations––which he has said will lead to a “spiritual renewal” and a “revolution of the American consciousness.”14

Staying on the Racism Treadmill means denying progress and stoking ethnic tensions. It means, as Thomas Sowell once warned, moving towards a society in which “a new born baby enters the world supplied with prepackaged grievances against other babies born the same day.”[15] Worse still, it means shutting down the one conversation that stands the greatest chance of improving outcomes for blacks: the conversation about culture.

By contrast, getting off the Treadmill means recognizing that group outcomes will differ even in the absence of systemic bias; it means treating people as individuals rather than as members of a collective; it means restoring the naive conception of equal treatment over the skin-color morality of the far Left; and it means rejecting calls to burn this or that system to the ground in order to combat forms of racial oppression that grow ever more abstract by the day. At bottom, it means acknowledging the fact that racism has declined precipitously, and perhaps even being grateful that it has.