– July 21, 2020 Reading Time: 21 minutes
melting pot new york

Have you stopped beating your wife? Yes or No? This is the classic question that condemns you as a wife beater, regardless of your answer. Now, welcome to the new world of “systemic racism.” Are you still benefiting from your “white privilege” oppression of others? Yes or No. Either reply unmasks you as a past or present racist. You are now branded with the letter “R” forever more. 

Systemic racism has become the catchphrase under which all the evils of the world are now collected. It does not matter that slavery in America ended over 150 years ago. Nor that the post-Civil War segregation laws of the South were removed from the statute books well over half a century ago. Nor that social, educational and employment opportunities for many members of the black community in America have never been greater. Racism, it is asserted, continues to rule. 

History Leaves Its Mark on Society

Of course, this does not mean that the legacies of history do not leave their trace on people and societies, sometimes long after a series of events or institutional arrangements of the past. The failure of the Turkish siege of the Habsburg capital of Vienna in 1683 halted the extension of Islam deeper into the center of Europe. But a continuing presence of Turkish control over large parts of the Balkans in southeastern Europe until the eve of the First World War left a legacy of differences among peoples in the region that helped ignite the civil wars of the 1990s following the political disintegration of Yugoslavia. 

From the late 12th century to 1922, Ireland was ruled as a part of Great Britain, with resulting resentments, angers, and sometimes rebellions on the part of the Irish against British rule, and contempt, arrogance, and racial prejudices against the Irish by many in England. This was compounded by the division between a majority of Catholics and a minority of Protestants, the latter especially clustered in the northern part of Ireland and loyal to the British crown. Yet, in spite of Irish independence in the larger southern portion of the island nearly a century ago, “the troubles” in Northern Ireland have persisted over the last 100 years, sometimes in extremely violent and deadly forms, and all more than 800 years after the Norman invasion of Ireland. 

The Japanese Empire ruled over Korea for half a century from 1895 to 1945, with the Koreans contemptuously and sometimes brutally treated by their Japanese masters. Over that half century Korean immigrants came to Japan, and today their descendants number over 700,000. Yet, in spite of all the generations separating the original arrival of those Koreans and their descendants today, many in Japanese society still do not view or treat them as “really” Japanese because of their ethnic classification.  

It should not be surprising, therefore, if after almost 250 years of slavery in colonial and then independent America up to the Civil War, and then nearly a century more of Jim Crow in the Southern states and various discriminatory attitudes and actions in the North, that racist biases and tacit behaviors have persisted among some people as a legacy of that long period of United States history. History leaves its residues, whether we always fully realize it or care about it. 

America’s Progress Out of a Racist Past

But the present is not a carbon copy of the past, since history is made by human actions, and people’s attitudes, beliefs and values have and do change over time. Orlando Patterson, professor of sociology at Harvard University and recognized scholar on the history and impact of slavery in America, has recently explained in articles and interviews the serious problems that he still sees in race relations in the United States. But even with all of these, he made the point of emphasizing how far America has come in the last half century, when looking at the actions and attitudes of white Americans toward their fellow citizens. 

In a recent feature article on “The Long Reach of Racism in the U.S.” in The Wall Street Journal (June 05, 2020), Professor Patterson said: 

“The despair of so many Americans in this moment of naked exposure of racism’s persistence in the U.S. should not lead us to deny the successes of the civil rights revolution. Black Americans are now included in the public domain of the nation. They form an integral part of its political life and an important component of its military, and they play an outsize role in its intellectual and cultural life. The black middle class is real, however tenuous its economic base and downwardly mobile its male children. The majority of white Americans have also undergone a radical transformation in their racial views, especially the young, who are arguably the most racially liberal group of whites anywhere in the world.” 

In an interview with The Harvard Gazette (June 4, 2020), when asked about the recent protests and demonstrations in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd by a policeman in Minneapolis, Professor Patterson expressed his many worrying concerns about persistent racism in America, but he made a point of also stating: 

“I’ve argued in my writings that there has been extraordinary progress in the changing attitudes of white Americans toward blacks and other minorities. As late as the early ’60s, a majority of whites openly said they saw blacks as inferior, and now there is an acceptance of equality, at least in their views. I’ve always said that this may be the great majority, but there’s still 20, 25 percent of whites who still embrace white supremacist views. 

“I don’t want to use the term ‘white people’ in general terms because as I said before, what is special about these recent protests is the participation of whites in it, many of them young. But I also see middle-aged and some people my age. I want to emphasize that I think white Americans have gone through quite radical changes in their attitudes, and that we’re talking about a more likely 25 percent of Americans who are hardcore racist, but I think most Americans have quite decent views about race.”

(Due to the peculiar times in which we presently live, it seems necessary to observe that Professor Patterson is black, because of the possible response by some of the more uninformed who might immediately conclude that this must be the rationalizations of a white racist.) 

Attitudes Have Changed for the Better in One Lifetime

Some attitudes stand out about how people of one ethnic or racial group feel about those in another group. One such attitude, surely, concerns interracial marriage. In a 1969 Gallup poll, only 17 percent of white Americans approved of interracial marriages between whites and blacks. However, 50 years later, according to a Pew Research Center poll in 2017, 91 percent of whites responded positively, saying either it does not matter (52 percent) or it was a good thing (39 percent). 

Half a century ago, 52 percent of black Americans approved of interracial marriages, while in 2017 that number had increased to 82 percent, with 46 percent saying it did not make a difference and 36 percent replying it was a good thing. In that 2017 Pew Research poll, 95 percent of Hispanics expressed approval of interracial marriages, with 60 percent saying it did not matter and 35 percent saying it was a good thing. 

Between 1980 and 2015, again according to the Pew Research Center, the number of black Americans in interracial marriages increased from 5 percent to 18 percent. For whites, the number in interracial marriages between those same years rose from 4 percent to 11 percent. In 2015, 27 percent of Hispanics had entered interracial marriages, and for Asian-Americans, that number stood at 29 percent. 

Not too surprisingly, matching this has been the number of interracial babies in two-parent households. The Pew Research Center found that that number had increased from 5 percent of babies in 1980 to 14 percent in 2015. The largest number of such small children in 2015 was between whites and Hispanics, representing 42 percent of that 14 percent total. There were 10 percent with white and black parents, and 14 percent with white and Asian parents. Babies with multiracial parents made up 22 percent of that 14 percent out of the total baby population in the country. 

Racial Differentials Often a Product of Government Policies

Critics insist that this is all “on the surface,” that serious disparities still exist and persist among whites and blacks in terms of income, education, employment, and a variety of other life opportunities. It would be absurd to categorically deny this situation in these and other facets of life. 

For decades, for instance, black youth unemployment has been especially far higher than that of white youths, for instance. The finger is pointed, with the immediate accusation of racism behind the failure of young blacks to find gainful employment. It should be noted that white youth unemployment rates have long been above that of adult unemployment rates, as well. 

The reason for this, as many economics studies have explained, is primarily due to minimum wage laws. The young have fewer skills, less on-the-job work experience, and are often with lower levels of education as a starting point for entry-level employment. This means that the productive value of the young, in general and on average, is less than older members of the workforce with more time on the job. 

As a result, if someone in this category is worth, say, $5 or $6 an hour in terms of their value to an private employer’s efforts to produce a good or supply a service consumers will be willing to pay for, it should not be surprising that mandating a legal minimum wage of $7.50 or $15 an hour has the effect of pricing many of such young hopefuls out of the chance for a job. 

But why does this impact young blacks more than whites? May it partly be due to remaining racial biases in American society? Of course, it might. But it is also the case that far too many young black men and women live in neighborhoods with public schools that too frequently pass them on to the next grade with fewer of the necessary writing, reading, speaking, or math skills to qualify for starting employment. 

It is not as if government spending on schooling has been suffering from a severe “austerity.” Tax-funded per-pupil expenditures have increased over the last 50 years by nearly 300 percent, from $4,720 in 1966 to more than $13,847 in 2016 (in constant 2018 dollars). They have increased by 32 percent just since the beginning of the 21st century, from $10,458 (in constant 2018 dollars) in 2000, to that of $13,847 in 2016 (again in constant 2018 dollars).

Due to federal educational funding, studies have shown that disparities in school spending per pupil is more or less fairly equalized in many cases, regardless of local property and other revenue levels for public schools. In fact, in Baltimore, Maryland, for instance, with a black majority population of over 61 percent, per-pupil spending in the school system was $15,161 in 2016, or 9 percent above the national average. 

What is lacking is not the funding, but the pedagogy and the content of what is taught. If the right knowledge is not being conveyed and presented in attractive ways to inspire learning; if too many students end up dropping out before high school graduation; and if educational competition in the form of private or charter schools is fought by teachers’ unions and public school administrators who are afraid of rivalry in the pursuit of teaching excellence, don’t expect those entering the workforce to do so with the essential skills to obtain a job, especially when, at the same time, they’re being priced out of the labor market by minimum wage laws. (See my article, “Freedom and the Minimum Wage”.)

Some Universals of Human Betterment

But besides teaching methods and content, there is the social environment in which too many American blacks still grow up. That is, are education, learning, and making sacrifices in the present for noticeable gains and benefits in the future sufficiently emphasized within families and among friends? However, even to raise such questions is considered to show one’s implicit racism; that is, to judge blacks and black society in America by “white” standards.

I grew up mostly with my mother’s side of the family. Her parents, my grandparents, had come from the Russian Empire as small children in the first decade of the 20th century, escaping from the frequent pogroms against Jewish villages and communities. When they arrived in America, they did not know the language; their origins were mostly from rural areas in Jewish parts of Ukraine and they had to adapt to urban life in New York City in those years before the First World War. 

They faced anti-Semitic prejudices and discriminations. Some professional and occupational doors were difficult to get through due to biases against Jews. Careers sometimes had to be the second or third best. My mother’s father wanted to go to medical school and had the grades, but there were implicit quotas for Jewish applications in many places at that time. So, instead, he went to pharmacy school and ended up owning his own neighborhood small drugstore in Brooklyn. My mother told me about want ads in New York City newspapers in the late 1930s, when she was looking for her first job, that still had phrases to the effect that Jews need not apply. 

I grew up with my grandmother drumming two things into my head, over-and-over again: First, get an education, and then you have a skill to get ahead, and if it is a skill that the gentiles may need, you have a better chance they won’t kill you! The other one was, the world doesn’t owe you a living; you were on your own, and you needed to be both a free and responsible individual making his way. Yes, be charitable, and think of others and empathize with their misfortunes, because your Jewish ancestors have known enough of those. But you shouldn’t expect a handout, and you should think it an embarrassment to put your hand out for one. 

So, is self-responsibility and self-control good and right for some ethnic and cultural groups, but not for others? Is pursuing an education and planning for the future in reasonable and disciplined ways cultural attributes that might be the right thing for one segment of the society, but not another? Taking family seriously, and trying to be good role models for your children is right and proper among some, but would be a misguided and inappropriate “cultural appropriation” by another part of society? 

Essential Keys: Education, Planning for the Future, and Self-Control

We are all human beings – or have we reached a point with the new “progressive” identity politics racism that is a misplaced and wrong presumption? – and, as such, there are universal truths and verities that we all share in common. They are not the “white man’s” truth or verities; they are the discoverable insights for all human beings to understand and follow, if we are interested in certain types of improvements in the general human condition. 

If you don’t think about tomorrow; if you are unwilling to make a variety of “sacrifices” in the present for desirable gains in the future; if the value and importance of an education – “book learning” – is not cultivated and fostered within the family and the household; if certain fundamental truths about ethical behavior are not highlighted and insisted upon when growing up. If these practices and rules of life are not taught, learned and followed, then no one should be overly surprised when those brought up in such social environments do less well than others who are raised in families and communities that have emphasized and insisted upon them.

Have we really “outgrown” the practical and universal educational wisdom that Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) shared with the young incoming black students to his Tuskegee Institute more than a hundred year ago, such as the following:  

“I do not believe it is possible for a student to accomplish very much, certainly not the most, while he is in school, unless he learns to be happy in all his relations in school life . . . The Bible teaches over and over again that freedom, without which happiness is impossible, is self-imposed restraint, that to be really free we must live within the law. He who lives outside the law is a slave. The freeman is the man who lives within the law, whether that law be the physical or the divine. All life is governed by law, and the student must acquire freedom by obedience to law. 

“The ability to do hard methodical work is one of the prizes which every school worthy of the name offers to its students. The years at school not infrequently give bent to the whole life. The student who does slipshod work at school is more than likely to lack direction in his subsequent career . . . No one gets much out of life who does not make his education a real, vital part of himself. 

“The student who leaves undone immediate duties because of bodily laziness is leaving happiness far behind him. Sins of commission and sins of omission alike tend to weakness. Our ability to make the world better depends entirely upon our ability to use every opportunity to make ourselves better. A largeness of life, a variety of interests and breadth of view axe among the prizes which a school offers to its students. These qualities the ignorant man does not possess. Largeness of life and breadth of vision give faith in the future; that largeness makes one person take the long view when the other is taking the short view; that largeness lifts the educated person far above the temptation to gossip about little things, above the temptation to get down into the mud and slime with which weaker individuals are smeared.(From: Booker T. Washington, Putting the Most into Life [1906], pp. 5-8)

Systemic Racism Insists Upon Tearing “the System” Down

No, this all seems to be passé, because the disparities between whites and blacks are caused by and reducible to “systemic racism,” and nothing or little to do with attitudes, values and personal actions. But what is systemic racism? It is the claim that it does not matter what individual human beings think, believe, or try to do; they are all perpetrators or victims of racial injustices and oppressions due to the nature of the socio-economic and political system in which they live. 

In other words, white racism is embedded into society, and the implication is that it has always been so and will remain so unless and until the very structural design of the social order is radically transformed. What are some of the manifestations of such systematic and institutional racism? 

We are told that it shows itself in disparities in earned incomes between whites and blacks, qualities of schools in predominantly differing racial neighborhoods, the qualities of the food offered in local stores, the availability of medical facilities and care within different racial communities, and differential treatments within the legal system.

So “the system” is rotten, and what makes it worse and difficult to change is that the people “in” the system often do not even know or understand that they are participants in its workings, receiving its benefits or its burdens. But how can this be said when there are whites who are in the lower income brackets, who live in far less than middle class neighborhoods, and who are not “invited” into the “better” social networks for advancement. In other words, how can you say that “poor, white trash” are not victims of that system?

Supposed “White Privilege” and a Mental Experiment

As far as the systemic racism proponents are concerned, just being white does the trick. Says Zinzi Bailey, a social epidemiologist at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s Jay Weiss Institute for Health Equity at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, specializing in problems of “systemic racism:”

“It’s an advantage conferred to white people in a range of different structures that privileges their worth and reception differently than a person of color. The advantage that is conferred to those folks regardless of their individual economic status or history. All else being equal, there is an advantage to being white. Yes, you may have had a lower social economic status, but a black person will encounter structural disadvantages that you will not. Yes, you worked hard, but our society has also valued you more.” 

Not only do whites have this inherent advantage that by definition those not in this “in-group” do not possess, but consciously or unconsciously, race-based policies isolate and segregate blacks from opportunities and avenues of a better life. Thus, for instance, in Ms. Bailey’s view, racially separate communities are “planned” by realtors and others to victimize blacks, so they have fewer grocery stores and bicycle lanes, lower home values, and other neighborhood amenities!

It’s all an institutional conspiracy caused by the simple fact that some are “white” while others are not. Let’s do a mental experiment. Suppose that there is a community in which all those living in it are of the same ethnic or racial background. They speak the same language, share mostly the same likes and dislikes in food, hair styles, and clothing fashions, as well as entertainment and leisure activities. In other words, they are all part, in the sociological, cultural sense, of a fairly homogeneous group. 

But . . . some are wealthier than others. Therefore, some individuals and families live in nicer and more spacious homes and neighborhoods than others, due to those wealth differences. These wealth differences mean that some have more expensive and newer model cars than others, can go out to restaurants more frequently, and can afford to stay at more costly vacation resorts and can more often fly first or business class getting to holiday destinations while traveling. 

Systemic Biases Caused by Politically Based Privileges

So how might we describe the reasons behind the standard and quality of living differences between these two groups in such a fairly homogeneous society? Now it could be the politics of such a society that has established and imposed systems of privilege and favoritism to the benefit of some that others are denied and are made to subsidize through various government regulatory policies and redistributive programs. This could be considered a society suffering from systemic economic “oppression” of some for the advantage of others. 

But now suppose that a spirit of (classical) liberal enlightenment emerges and gains increasing support within this community, such that a great reform movement arises demanding and finally bringing about the dismantlement and abolition of this system of privilege and favoritism for some at the expense of others. 

Now, all are equally free to enter any profession or occupation they may choose to follow, they may open businesses and freely compete as entrepreneurs on a free market, and search out and apply without legal restriction for attractive and preferred salaried employments. The legal barriers to entry and opportunity, with their resulting politically generated inequalities of outcome are gone. 

But . . . suppose what had been the “mark” of difference between the two groups in this society and which had made it easier to distinguish one from another under that regime of systemic privilege was that some were blond haired and blue-eyed, while the “disadvantaged” were brunettes with brown eyes, though all of them were racially “white.”

In a free market, the only color that ultimately ends up mattering is the color of your money; that is, can you offer someone a better product at a more attractive price than a rival also interested in gaining the same consumer business? And as a potential employee, can you contribute to an enterprise’s economic success better than another also looking for gainful employment?

The consumer who refuses to buy from the lower-pricing and better quality-providing seller because he has the “wrong” color hair, sees his hard-earned income go less far in terms of his overall standard of living when compared to his neighbor who is more interested in hair color-blind “value for his money.” And the employer who chooses to not hire the better skilled worker because he does not like the color of his eyes loses out on a competitive advantage to a supply-side rival who either has no such prejudice or assigns it less importance than the more cost-efficient production he can undertake with more skilled employees. 

Yes, in a free society, the hair and eye color bigots in this imagined society could practice their prejudices, but they cannot escape the costs of doing so (higher prices paid for some consumer goods, less productive workers employed with the loss of a larger profit opportunity). As time goes by, the tendency would be for the tradeoff of lost real income and foregone profits to be earned, so to indulge one’s “biases” will seem too great, with fewer and fewer people doing so.  

America’s Melting Pot Due to Depoliticized Human Relationships

Those on “the left” normally roll their eyes and either by the smirk on their face or the words with which they reply to this, consider it all a fairy tale. But it is the history of America among the waves of European immigrants who came to the country’s shores. This was seen and emphasized, for instance, already by the Frenchman, J. Hector John de Crevecoeur, who settled in New York State in the 1760s, and wrote his famous, Letters from an American Farmer (1782) in which he told his readers in Europe:

“[T]hat strange mixture of blood, which you will find in no other country. I could point out to you a man, whose grandfather was an Englishman, whose wife was Dutch, whose son married a French woman, and whose present four sons have now four wives of different nations. 

“He is an American who, leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, wrests new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced, the new government he obeys, and the new rank he holds. He becomes an American by being received in the broad lao of our great alma mater. Here individuals of all nations are melted in a new race of man, whose labors and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world.” (p. 46)

In Europe, at the time that Crevecoeur wrote these words all the way up to our own times, these different national groups have fought wars among themselves, plundered each other’s lands, killed each other in untold numbers – even though they were all “white.” 

So, what happened in America? Did national prejudices and ethnic biases just “disappear” once the air was breathed or the water was drunk on the American side of the Atlantic? Far from it. European bigotries and rivalries and dislikes did not just evaporate; this “old world” baggage often accompanied the arriving immigrant. 

Various immigrant groups first clustered in certain parts of cities like New York, which had its Polish or Irish or German or Jewish neighborhoods. But soon over a generation or two, at the most three, people moved on to other parts of the country, blended in with the descendants of other European groups, intermarried, and lived side-by-side simply as “Americans.”  

The legal foundation for group “privilege” and social prejudice was not formally here to use and abuse due to personal dislikes and the desire to use political power to the same plundering and discriminatory ends as in too many parts of Europe. 

In addition, the country preached and (not always perfectly) practiced the underlying philosophy of individualism, personal freedom, and economic liberty. Most people coming here wanted to join in as a member of this “new land” based on the new, indeed, revolutionary idea of human freedom, equality of rights before the law, self-responsibility, voluntary association, and a government that was to protect your life, liberty and honestly acquired property, not to plunder it or redistribute it for your or another’s benefit at the expense of someone else. 

Slavery and Jim Crow Needed Government to Survive

Did “America” or Americans always live up to these ideas and ideals among themselves who were of European ancestry? Alas, no. And they certainly failed to do so toward others not of the same European background, most infamously in the form of Africans transported into slavery, especially and for the longest time in the Southern states. 

But notice, the most egregious manifestations were made possible precisely because a segment of the population was kept in bondage through the use of political power for the benefit of those who claimed ownership over their “human property.” Racial segregation could persist in its most visible forms following the American Civil War only because the Southern states, when free of Northern occupation, legalized compulsory separation among whites and blacks through Jim Crow legislation. 

Yes, personal bigotry and social pressures most certainly have their influences in any society, but the fact that racial segregation in the South needed the power of the state to assure its preservation strongly suggests that if those laws had not been in place, racial divides socially and economically would have been undermined, reduced, and been on a path to fuller racial harmony and integration that was kept on hold for a century after the Civil War. 

If people “naturally” want to separate themselves on racial lines, if they “naturally” do not want to associate or do business with each other, or share common goals and visions simply as “Americans,” then why did the Southern legislatures have to impose the segregation laws in the first place? Why did they have to so forcefully and sometimes brutally enforce them? 

The answer is: without such laws and auxiliary “pressures,” the race-separating walls and biases would have come tumbling down. Overnight? Of course not. Human beings far too often can be stubborn creatures, but faster or slower, in an environment of traditional American preaching and practicing of individual liberty and freedom of association inside and outside the marketplace would have cured the racial scares and attitudes that were able to persist for so long because of what lasted for an additional one hundred years in the South.  

In Freedom, People Discover Their Common Humanity

But what about social bigotries and racist attitudes? How would communities be desegregated in terms of housing, employment, social life and networks? Do any of us hear about “redlined” Irish neighborhoods, or Polish “ghettos,” or isolated “inner city” Italians? Those prejudices were certainly present in an earlier America. Do we belabor divergences in Irish-American relative income versus Italian-American or Polish-American relative incomes? No, though once discrepancies in income and status did exist among Americans of differing European ancestry. 

Freedom and enlightened thinking, at the end of the day, made more and more people reflect on and realize that “they” are really not very different from “us,” in all the essential ways, regardless of the church they go to, or the ethnic foods they eat and customs they practice at home or with some neighbors, or even the way they look; it really does not matter. “Under the skin,” we are pretty much all the same.

After all, a blond-haired Swede can look very different from an olive-complexion Italian from Sicily, let alone a practicing Jew from Russia compared to an “enlightened” French sophisticate originally from Paris, both living in New York. America was, has been, and still is a “melting pot,” far greater and with amazingly good results compared to virtually anywhere else in the world. And the same has been and can continue to be no less true between white and black Americans, regardless of history’s legacies.

The danger with this new notion of “systemic racism” is that it insists that people have not and cannot think about themselves and others other than in collective tribal terms defined by the color of your skin. It may be considered rhetorically “impolite” to say it, but it is nonetheless the case that this is an attempt to impose Nazi-like thinking on America.

“Systemic Racism” Theory is the New Nazism

You are who you are based on race. You cannot help thinking outside of your racial group as oppressor or oppressed. Your race, alone, determines and dictates your position and status in society. Here is the new eugenics. The old eugenics said you are your genes, and these made you “superior” or “inferior” in a variety of mental and other ways from which no one could escape. It was in your “blood.” 

All that could be hoped for to preserve the best in the society was “racial hygiene” by limiting the breeding of the inferior races and their polluting of and bringing down the superior races. What about the new eugenics? You can’t help being racist, it’s in your social DNA. All that can be done is to “bring the system down,” to end the white racism that is inherent in being a white person. 

There is no common humanity, no shared humanness, no capacity to understand “the other” in spite of us all being human beings. Just as the Nazis said the “Jewish mind” is fundamentally different than the “German mind,” including in logic, science, and the human experience, so, now, the systemic racism proponents insist that a white male can never know the meaning of being non-white or female or any number of genders in-between. 

A female novelist chooses to “voluntarily” withdraw her new work from publication, because as a “white woman” how could she ever think that she could understand the thinking of southern blacks in another period of time? Only a black woman can ever write such a book. How could a white man presume to be the voice of a television cartoon character of a different race or ethnic group? Only a person of such a group can be considered a reasonable choice to play such a cartoon voice. 

And both of them, and a publicly growing number of others, verbally grovel and beg forgiveness for the presumption, the hubris, the insensitivity, to think that they could ever know and feel what a black person has or ever can feel. Yes, they are really saying, we live in racially different universes, with no common humanity, understanding, empathy or sympathy. Just please, please forgive me for thinking that we are all human beings. I did not appreciate that we are merely fate-determined elements in hierarchies of power and privilege determined by the colors of our skin. Thank you for raising my consciousness to that “higher level.” There is no individual and personal “me.” There is only the tribe, the “we,” into which I was born. 

Systemic Racism Means a Return to a Crude Tribalism

All a white person can try to do is accept collective guilt and collective punishment by having their group “privilege” taken away by other races controlling the powers of government to redistribute what whites as a group do not deserve and should not have. The state must be used to apportion new privileges and burdens among different tribal groups. What is implicitly impossible in this mindset is a future society beyond race. Race is always with us; it’s just a matter of who oppresses who. 

“Social justice” comes down to whether your tribe is politically in power rather than some other. Enter a world of war and conflict of tribe against tribe, race against race, collective against collective. Peace, harmony, mutual respect, and common betterment through free association? All a “white man’s trick” to get you to accept your inferior and oppressed place in society. It’s either his race or yours. Thus, ends any sense and hope of a common humanity. The darkness descends, and humankind goes backwards. 

If the ideology and policies of “systemic racism,” identity politics, and cancel culture win out in the arena of American politics and cultural acceptance, it will be the end of America. Because America has been and is that unique, special, and highly successful “experiment” in human freedom. A freedom not based on race, nationality, language, or religion, but on an idea of the unique and valued individual who is at liberty to live his own life, peacefully in voluntary mutual association with others. A society that, more than any other, has done more to do away with the tribe and liberate the person, and bring peace and prosperity along with it.  

Richard M. Ebeling

Richard M. Ebeling

Richard M. Ebeling, an AIER Senior Fellow, is the BB&T Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Free Enterprise Leadership at The Citadel, in Charleston, South Carolina.

Ebeling lived on AIER’s campus from 2008 to 2009.

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