Zombie Politics: the Corporatist Ideology of Antiracism

In the 1960s, liberal Democrats slashed taxes on the wealthy and corporations and opened the borders to the free flow of capital and labor both ways. Income and wealth inequality soared. So did crime. Labor unions were decimated. So, to distract workers, liberals leaned on New Left thought and rolled out an ideology: antiracism.

BEWARE! The Zombies Are Upon Us. – Get Social Group
Image by Steve Cutts

The system of de jure race-based segregation benefitting whites also having been dismantled in the 1960s, the conversation about economic and social inequality strangely moved from the problem of social class to the problem of race.

In hindsight, this wasn’t strange but necessary since, having removed the legal framework that privileged whites, progress on the racial front risked the legal framework that sustained economic and social inequality coming into plain view in a way it hadn’t since the Great Depression. The capitalist class had gotten off easy with the New Deal. It didn’t need a class consciousness working class.

What grew from this soil was the doctrine of white privilege, which today finds white people begging black people to absolve them of their sin of whiteness and the elevation of a man convicted of multiple felonies, including armed robbery, to the status of a saint, while characterizing all police officers as racists and calling for the abolition of law enforcement.

George Floyd did not deserve to die. The man who killed him is a murderer. But Floyd’s death is not representative of race relations in America.

Who benefits from all this white self-loathing? Such an absurdity does not occur to people en masse without a regime of hegemonic production. That is to say, this is not an organic development. It was manufactured. By who?

The notion of a pervasive white privilege coming to dominate the politics of a country that had more than half a century earlier eliminated white privilege provides clues about those behind the new religion. Actually, it tells us straight away who’s responsible: the ruling class and its functionaries, an army of cultural managers preaching a gospel of “diversity, equality, and inclusiveness.”

What explains the proletarian rejection of class politics and equality and the embrace of antiracist rhetoric? Could it be that affluent white liberals don’t know many poor white people? Maybe they came from humble beginnings and have forgotten where they came from? I suppose it’s easy to say one has privilege when one enjoys a high status and can afford nice things. Starting from humble beginnings, one can pat oneself on the back for a job well done.

But if white privilege is so pervasive, how can black people have high statuses and buy nice things, too?

For sure, if you’re a progressive, you want to avoid talking about how some blacks overcame adversity to become successful (there are millions of them, so one has to do a lot of obscuring). For then you’re saying something about those who didn’t. You don’t want to be called out by your woke comrades for suggesting that there are those in the black community who don’t strive. You don’t want to be seen talking about culture and personal responsibility in reference to black people. Antiracism tells you that is “racist.” That sort of talk is only reserved for white people and the culture they embrace.

This is the problem with internalizing racecraft. One is taught to substitute race for class. But from an objective standpoint the world doesn’t make sense that way. Self-evidently, there are a lot of well-off black people. There are black capitalists, administrators, professors, entertainers, athletes, politicians, etc. White privilege can’t explain them. They didn’t all get there on handouts. They are not all the product of tokenism. Would you want them to be?

Moreover, there are three times more poor whites than there are poor blacks. White privilege can’t explain them either. Why are there so many poor white people if their skin color systemically privileges them?

Until you put social class at the center of your thinking about the problem of poverty, you will always be groping about for a rationalization for why people are poor regardless of race.

White privilege is a religious-like mode of thinking. Antiracism provides a mythic explanation for the social problems our communities fact, the problems of crime and poverty. The doctrine of antiracism authors a false narrative. It tells a tale of “perpetrators” and “victims,” with personified color-coded abstractions. It asks us to put on polarized lens that see good and bad in racial terms. It paints a world without progress by denying the arc of our history by dwelling on and even attempting to resurrect the obstacles we overcame.

Is there race prejudice? Yes, of course there is. And we should condemn it when we find it (which is becoming increasingly difficult to do). But confronting race prejudice does not require a mythology of pervasive white privilege that supposes a race prejudice that is intrinsic and exclusive to a group of people. White privilege is a new satan thrown in the path of progress.

Peggy McIntosh’s invisible knapsack is not invisible. It’s empty. Her claims are those of an affluent white woman imagining for the sake of her own esteem the experience of blacks who are presupposed not as individuals with diverse experiences but as a monolithic group.In her world, blacks are singularly defined by their skin color. She wishes upon blacks a world wherein every waking moment is consumed by racial thinking.

There must be blacks out there wondering upon hearing the racecraft of Peggy McIntosh, Robin DiAngelo, and Tim Wise whether they are living an authentic black experience. Do these white progressives know something they don’t?

Antiracism commits the ecological fallacy: it presumes that facts about monolithic abstract categories can reasonably stand in place of concrete individuals. In an objective and rational world, antiracism should die on that fallacy—except that, through the magic of white self-loathing, it haunts us as the living dead.

This is the ghost of Jim Crow, aroused in middle-class séances administrators call “diversity, equity, and inclusivity training sessions.” The Maoists called them “struggle sessions.” China lost a decade on account of them.

Antiracism is not something we should desire to embrace. As Adolphe Reed, Jr., tells us in his 2016 essay “How Racial Disparity Does Not Help Make Sense of Patterns of Police Violence” (which seems so apropos given the insanity in today’s streets): “antiracism is not a different sort of egalitarian alternative to a class politics but is a class politics itself: the politics of a strain of the professional-managerial class whose worldview and material interests are rooted within a political economy of race and ascriptive identity-group relations.” (See also Cedric Johnson, “The Triumph of Black Lives Matter and Neoliberal Redemption.”)

Reed warns us that, “although it often comes with a garnish of disparaging but empty references to neoliberalism as a generic sign of bad things, antiracist politics is in fact the left wing of neoliberalism in that its sole metric of social justice is opposition to disparity in the distribution of goods and bads in the society, an ideal that naturalizes the outcomes of capitalist market forces so long as they are equitable along racial (and other identitarian) lines.” 

Antiracism is a corporatist neoliberal doctrine that rationalizes capitalism, in particular its globalist corporatist form. It is not an element in the democratic struggle for a more just society. White privilege hides the denationalization project of the transnational fraction of the capitalist class. Contemporary leftwing thought constitutes a zombie politics.

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Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

One thought on “Zombie Politics: the Corporatist Ideology of Antiracism”

  1. Your insightful and well researched blogs and opinions always challenge me to think about issues in a new way. I learn something from them with nearly every read. I appreciate your efforts and the logical ways with which you explain complex social issues that challenge us each day. Thanks Andrew.

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