Some readers may find this blog controversial. If so, I submit to you that this is only because we have for decades allowed extremists on both sides of the political-ideological spectrum to conflate culture and race. Culture and race are not the same things. Culture refers to a social system of beliefs, ideas, norms, and values. Race refers to supposed genetic or otherwise essential variation in our species claimed to be meaningfully organized into types that exhibit concomitant variability in behavioral proclivity, cognitive capacity, and moral integrity. Culture is a real thing. Race is not.
White nationalists, for the most part located on the political right, see culture through a racial lens, believing that the ideals and accomplishments of the West (which are profound and vast) reflect the superiority of the white race, into which they collapse selected ethnicities determined to be racially white. White supremacists are particularly committed to an extreme version of Christianity (Christian nationalism or Christianism) and slather other faiths, even Judaism—especially Judaism, for some of them—in loathsome sentiment. Thankfully, white nationalists are a rare and vanishing force in Western society.
More plentiful, and therefore more threatening, are the identitarians on the left, who, also collapsing culture, ethnicity, and religion into race, and defining race in essentialist terms that obscure its racist assumptions, portray Western culture as the expression of white supremacy, and use that portrayal to smear those moderate voices on the left and the right concerned with the integrity of the modern nation-state and the preservation and perpetuation of Western culture, with its democratic-republican commitments and stress on the Enlightenment values and practices of humanism, individualism, liberalism, science, and secularism. Left identitarians label themselves “antiracists,” but, in this system, antiracism is a species of racism.
This essay is a defense of individualism and democratic-republican values over against those extremists on the left and right who elevate group identity above liberty and civil and human rights thus compromising both. I will enter the discussion through the concept of whiteness, which antiracists falsely claim is the prevailing culture of the United States and the West. In fact, the West, especially the United States, is a multiracial space in which nonwhites enjoy the same rights as whites. The Enlightenment values inhering in Western culture—humanism, individualism, liberalism, secularism, etc.—have no color. They are for everybody and the greatest accomplishment of the West is realizing their universality.
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In November of 1998, Jeff Hitchcock, director of the Center for the Study of White American Culture, appeared before an audience at the 3rd National Conference on Whiteness at the University of Chicago and delivered a talk titled “Decentering Whiteness.” Hitchcock defines “whiteness” as a term meant “to describe such things as white racial identity, white culture and European Americans as a people.” He clarifies at the start that this is “different and broader from how other people may use the term.” That is perhaps a strange thing to say given that this is how most people who use that term define it. Of course, turf cutting is not uncommon in attempts to make one appear to have novel or superior insight on a subject.
By the time Hitchcock gave his speech, whiteness studies had become an established academic field, one that informs and is informed by antiracist activism. Although W.E.B. Dubois articulated the concept of whiteness in his observation of the race-based psychological wage many decades earlier, Theodore Allen initiated the project with his 1975 pamphlet Class Struggle and the Origin of Racial Slavery: The Invention of the White Race in which he claimed that British colonists invented whiteness in the late-seventeenth-early-eighteenth century in the American colonies as an hegemonic strategy disorganizing the working class by manufacturing racial loyalties that disrupted class solidarity.
From there, Allen’s view was elaborated in a vast body of literature and numerous academic programs. Perhaps more than any other work, David Roediger’s The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class, published in 1991, establishes the academic foundation of whiteness studies. George Lipsitz gave the thesis a useful hook in his 1995 essay, “The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: Racialized Social Democracy and the ‘White’ Problem in American Studies,” published in the American Quarterly. The heart of the argument is that, at first, whiteness was narrowly construed to apply to white British workers. Over a period of time, the designation expanded to include other Europeans. Non-Europeans are excluded from the designation. These claims are untrue, it turns out. I debunk the narrative in my essay “Race, Ethnicity, Religion, and the Problem of Conceptual Conflation and Inflation.” The Irish, Jews, and even Arabs have always been white. But ideologies are stubborn and whiteness studies refuses to die.
In this speech, Hitchcock advances a method he calls “decentering whiteness.” One hears such jargon alongside other constructions that echo in the halls of academe, activists workshops, and community organizing campaigns, constructions such as “white privilege” and “white fragility.” (See “Not All White People are Racist”). For those who use these words, as Hitchcock puts it, whiteness “forms the center of our society in the United States.” Because “no single racial or cultural group should control the center,” good people (antiracists) “need to take whiteness out of the center and replace the center with multiracial values.” (If you need help doing this, Hitchcock’s Center for the Study of White American Culture is a fee-based organization to help private and public organizations become antiracist. That’s right, he’s a race hustler.)
What does it mean to say that whites are at the center of our society? “When we talk about being in the center of society,” Hitchcock explains, “by that we mean having access to power, control of resources and having the ability to enforce one’s values.” He then specifies the extent of white racial power. “In the United States we have government, with the presidency, the Senate and the Supreme Court and these are overwhelmingly white, and for that matter, male, which is itself an element of whiteness.” But it’s not just the government that centers whiteness, i.e., finds the white majority also a majority in its dominant institutions. “We have Fortune 500 companies, which are overwhelmingly controlled by white people. We have white families in control of a disproportionately large measure of the wealth of the country. We have a majority of white people who believe living and working in circumstances that are overwhelmingly white is normal, okay, acceptable, and even worth seeking out.”
By “multiracial values,” Hitchcock means that “no single racial group should control the society’s resources, power and values, and every racial and cultural group should have access to these things.” I agree. And so do the vast majority of Americans. As I have explained numerous times on Freedom and Reason, and this was no less true in 1998, white Americans abolished the slave trade, emancipated black people from chattel slavery, affirmed the right of women to participate in politics, and dismantled the structures of Jim Crow segregation. (See “Truth in the Face of the 1619 Project”; “The New Left’s War on Imaginary Structures of Oppression”; “The FAR Podcast Episode # 21.”) There is neither a de jure or a de facto effort to center white people in America.
Hitchcock’s argument is an exercise of turning the expected and ordinary into the unusual and perverse. Between two-thirds and three-quarters of the US population is white. One would expect, then, as a mere matter of course, a majority of people will live and work in environments that are overwhelmingly white. To suggest that this is neither normal nor acceptable implies that acceptable normality excludes a great many whites from life and work—or that maybe there should be far fewer whites. Presently, of the 330-plus millions Americans, approximately 275 million of them, or more than eighty percent, excluding nonwhite Hispanics, are white. Is it any surprise that white people are the majority in our institutions? Moreover, half of the United States population is male (patriarchy’s ubiquity in world history speaks for itself, so I won’t dwell on it albeit it is a problem). Black and other Americans will encounter a lot of white men over the course of their lives. A white majority does not obviate the fact of a multiracial society. The United States is self-evidently multiracial. However, following the progressive left style of thinking, there is an assumption in Hitchcock’s argument that whiteness is cultural and that therefore multiracialism must therefore be multicultural. In other words, culture must not be white because whiteness is racist. It has to decenter whiteness. But western societies are multiracial with a white majority. What’s the problem with a white majority?
There is a trick being played here. Whiteness studies is an expression of anti-white bigotry and white self-loathing that legitimizes such sentients by racializing Western culture and then taking up a righteous struggle against white supremacy. Whiteness studies aims to convince people that black inequality is found in the thought and actions of people—even black people—as a result of enculturation in a white supremacist culture. This is the source of such concepts as “implicit race bias” and “white guilt.” Racial inequality is wrong and therefore the culture that engenders it must go. The institutions of the West—the Enlightenment and rational jurisprudence—are expressions of white culture which in turn makes the West the racist projection of the white race which, according to Allen, is invented. But Western culture is not a proxy for anti-white bigotry. It is as much the case that anti-white bigotry is popularly engendered to struggle against Western culture. Who would want to dismantled Western culture? Transnational corporate power.
When you and I look at the world and see few white supremacists in it, the antiracist cannot scold us for not seeing the forest for the trees. There are indeed few trees. But he doesn’t let that stop him. This is because he works as the supernaturalists do, where a different style of truth prevails, the truth-style of positing forces that operate behind the seen/scene. In the antiracist worldview, as Eduardo Bonilla-Silva tells us, racism can and does exist without racists. Racism is “in the system.” It is the system. The language of “systemic racism” allows the antiracists to grow a forest without trees. No wonder you can’t see the forest. You were looking for trees!
Just as the antiracist forest does not require trees, the system of white supremacy needs no human agency to oppress. White supremacy works like the devil and his demons, making bad things happen in the world. This is a supernatural agency. Of course, for the sophisticated, demons are merely personifications of evil. So how do we see the evil? We need a specialized language. We need doctrine and scripture. We need a testament. We need clerics and institutions in which the clerics may preach and indoctrinate. We need missionaries to take to the streets and bring people to the faith. We need a rhetoric to shame and scold the infidel and punish the apostate. We need to stifle and marginalize the heretic. Either you are a believer (antiracist) or a disbeliever and therefore an enemy of the righteous (racist). Nobody is allowed to stand outside doctrine. As Brother Ibram X Kendi tells us, there is no such thing as a non-racist. Those who say otherwise are in league with the deceiver.
As I have noted several times on Freedom and Reason, people like Hitchcock have taken to living in a reified world constructed from concepts and theories that posit as real things imagined relations and structures falsified by obvious facts. Here’s one of those facts: Most poor people are white. They don’t control a disproportionately large measure of wealthy of the country. Even though there are twice as many poor whites than blacks, blacks nearly equal whites in welfare utilization. Here’s another fact: There are black families who own and control the means of production, employing and controlling workers to whom they extract value in the wage-labor system. More facts: There are blacks in positions of political power, in some cities a majority of those who make the policies that keep black neighborhoods in power and under-protected from the violence crime that plagues their lives. Blacks are prominent in entertainment, sports, and many other walks of life. Again, this was true in 1998 when Hitchcock gave his talk.
American society is already multiracial. It has always been multiracial. And the values associated with America is what guided white people to struggle against racism for the sake of their nonwhite brothers and sisters. It is this that makes the United States the number one target of destination for those seeking a better life for themselves and their families. But if Western civilization is racist, then opposition to developments that threaten Western civilization, such as cultural pluralism, or multiculturalism—those who oppose multiculturalism must also oppose multiracialism and therefore must be racist. Smearing opponents of cultural pluralism with racism is lazy. It’s also wrong. Many people do it out of habit and reflex. Decades of pairing racism with culture and ethnicity in an essentialist fashion has confused millions of people. People like Hitchcock work very hard to keep the confusion going.
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In order to detangle the mess the antiracists have made of things, we need to clarify our terms. Racism is an ideology (and thus indeed a type of culture) that causes people to see selected inherited superficial physical characteristics, such as skin color or eye shape, as indicating different types of humans, and some institutionalize this typology to, or use it to justify, institutions that privilege members of their group while disadvantaging members of others. The manifestations of racism are seen historically in de jure segregation and presently in private and public programs that advance or thwart the aspirations of persons on the basis of ancestry and racial identity. But the subjects of racism, the individuals sorted into racial categories, are not abstractions.
The subjects of racist belief and practice are fundamentally different from the social systems of culture and ethnicity. Those are acquired through inculturation and socialization where, for example, one becomes an Arab or a Muslim. A person does not become this or that race through socialization. Like sex, race is ascribed at birth. Being black requires no special language or thought patterns. We see a black person as is. He may be an Arab or a Muslim. We won’t know until we ask him. Like sex, race, as understood in common sense terms, is an immutable characteristic, even if, unlike sex, it is not an actual biological reality but a social construction. As social systems, culture and ethnicity represent patterns of attitudes, beliefs, habits, norms, and values. A black people can be a constituent of any culture or ethnicity. And he may change cultures and even change his ethnicity. Very few people, including non-racists, believe a person can change his racial identity; however, nearly everybody who does not collapse culture into race, as is the reflex of right and left wing identitarians, believes an individual can adapt to a new culture, learn a new language, change his religion (or abandon religion all together). In the process of changing one’s culture, one can also abandon racial thinking.
I will use myself as an example. I am a white person. I did not choose to be nor do I wish to be white. Whiteness is of no value to me (see “About My “Whiteness’.”) However, if I tell people I am not white, they will think I am mad. I am not allowed to identify as another race or even to go raceless. I cannot change or deny my race as I might my religion or, these days, my gender. My ancestry is varied, but I know my ancestors were mostly Europeans and spoke many languages and practiced different religions (most were Christians, while others were Jewish and any number of religions practiced in Japan). They were mostly white even if the word white was not yet in use. (Names for things do not distinguish them; one will search in vain to find an ancient text that describes the sky as blue.) Upon arriving in the United States, my ancestors assimilated with American culture and became native Americans.
In a blog entry dated 2012, Let’s Recognize White American Culture, Hitchcock admits as much. “Some white Americans claim as their culture the original heritage of the European country or countries from whence their ancestors came. This makes sense for first or second generation white Americans, but the vast majority of white Americans have been here much longer. Often we’re a mix of many ancestral national origins. We can’t speak the original languages, and we have no meaningful relationships with those who remained in Europe. More likely we have gone through generations of assimilation in the United States, and the culture of the United States gives us our language, our customs, and our values.” But then Hitchcock intrudes upon sound history with his anti-whiteness. He declares that the future of the United States “it is not simply ‘American’ culture.” It is, as his blog title tells us, “white American culture.” “Our experience has been more constricted by race, and the historic process of cultural formation has taken place along racial lines,” he writes. It follows, then that there is a “black American culture.” Hitchcock sees multiple cultures in America, that differentiate “the music people listen to, the movies and TV programs they watch, and the foods they eat.” He recognizes that “individuals make individual choices and some people prefer the cultural experience of others. There is a fair amount of fusion and cross-over activity taking place.” “But the larger fact remains,” he contends, that “White Americans have a culture. We have a shared cultural experience. So why don’t we recognize that? And why is it important that we should?”
I am uncomfortable with insisting on a white culture. We might more properly in the domestic case talk about subcultures. It is not clear that there is a monolithic white subculture (I don’t think there is). One is on firmer grounds claiming the existence of a black subculture. But, for Hitchcock, there is a white culture that exists beyond those subcultures we might identify. “Let’s be real,” he writes. “White Americans, as a group, basically control what’s going on in the United States, and so our culture sets the norms.” So here we have it. There is a dominant culture, but it is one constructed and controlled by whites, and to maintain that control, whites set the norms to which all who live in the United States are expected to adhere.
I write about this on Freedom and Reason in the blog “The Myth of White Culture.” I was inspired to write the blog because Stanford law professor Richard Thompson Ford, author of The Race Card: How bluffing about bias makes race relations worse,” told his audience in an op-ed for CNN, “There is no ‘White culture’.” I report on an exhibit at the Smithsonian (which was taken down due to protest) that identified several features common to “white culture.” What are these? Autonomy, common law, competition, delayed gratification, future-oriented, independence, promoting progress, self-reliance and the work ethic, time-oriented, the scientific method, the two-parent family. These are the norms and values Hitchcock wants to decenter. (See “The Origins and Purpose of Racial Diversity Training Programs.”)
While I am inescapably white (inescapable because others refuse to give up racial thinking), I am not any of those other cultures or ethnicities. One does not carry cultural or ethnical traits on their genes the way they do the traits for skin color or eye shape. My culture is American culture. I am ethnically America. I am a native of that culture and to the nation. This would be true if I were not white. I stand alongside black and brown people as a citizen of the United States—and as a representative of Western civilization. All those features of white American culture are really features of Western culture and belong to all people regardless of the color of their skin or the shape of their eyes.
There are white subcultures (plural), that is attitudes, beliefs, preferences, and tastes that have grown in the context of a segregated society. There are attitudes, beliefs, norms and values in my own culture to which I never subscribed. Growing up, everyone around me was a Christian and spoke with a regional accent. I am atheist and have deliberately spoken English in manner that doesn’t give away the location of my upbringing (although I am not ashamed of my upbringing). Growing up in the south, there were many people in my life who were racially prejudiced. I always resisted those attitudes. Yes, while originating among white people, Christianity is not exclusive to white culture (obviously). At the same time, I adhere to the attitudes, beliefs, norms, and values that founded my nation: humanism, individualism, liberalism, and secularism. I adhere to these because they are just and rational and universal. I expect others who wish to live in my country to do the same whatever the color of their skin or the shape of their eyes.
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America is a multiracial society. But it does not follow that it should be a multicultural one. Why, then, do so many people reflexively perceive criticism of and resistance to multiculturalism as a racist dog whistle? This reflex is a specular propaganda achievement in the service of a capitalist class fraction, the transnationalist fraction, that seeks to denationalize the global space and subjugate world labor to corporate governance and technocratic control. What stands in the way of globalist desire is national chauvinism or patriotism, founded upon a deep cultural understanding held in common across individuals regardless of racial designation. The pairing of race and culture and ethnicity is a political-ideological strategy designed to delegitimize those who believe in a common language and shared cultural values by smearing them as racist.
The force leveraging racism to fracture the proletariat is the multicultural progressive left. Leftwing elites portray those who believe in national integrity and support restrictions on immigration for reasons that have nothing to do with race as backwards, bigoted, and xenophobic. At the very least, the pairing functions this way. In any case, few people attempt to clarify the meaning of the terms at play for fear of being accused of what they are condemning. It is therefore vital for the future of the American nation and the Enlightenment project that the truth that culture is not race is reclaimed and widely circulated. Knowing that culture and race are not the same and that their false pairing is a deception that serves narrow economic and political interests is a game changer.
There is a peculiar thing about those who insist on the pairing. You will have noticed that who is smeared as a racist for defending cultural integrity depends on who is insisting on cultural integrity, whether this insistence will metamorphosize into the perception of a call for racial integrity and solidarity, or whether this latter quality will draw the smear of racism. Only some groups are permitted to demand a common language and culture without being so smeared, even when they collapse these thing into race essentialism. Put another way, permission to make demands is attached to and depends upon on those races qualified to do so, those qualifications built into the hegemonic system disrupting common sense understanding.
There are host cultures or nations approved to assimilate new arrivals to the culture and language that supports the nation. Other cultures or nations are racist for insisting on assimilation. Indeed, for some, for some places, to suggest assimilation or integration with the culture that hosts new arrivals is considered a type of cleansing, as cultural genocide or ethnocide. Sometimes, those who racialize ethnicity criticize the term “ethnocide” as a synonym for cultural genocide for confusing culture with ethnicity. However, ethnicity is a cultural phenomenon. So, while not all culture is ethnic in character, all aspect of ethnicity are cultural in essence (at present, in contrast to phenotypic traits selected for constructions of race, there is no scientific evidence for any feature of ethnicity being carried on the genes). But more often the identitarian seeks to collapse cultural genocide and ethnocide into the definition of genocide generally. In considering these terms during the drafting of the 2007 “Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” the United Nations eschewed any distinction and defined a wide array of modern nation building practices as “genocide.”
You will have noticed that those who equate assimilation with racism or genocide are either those for whom race is central to identity or adherents to a culture or ideology that is inconsistent with the norms and values of the host nation which is described in racial terms. For example, Islam is incompatible with the norms and values that have made Western societies the freest and most prosperous societies in the world. This ideology is a form of clerical fascism (a fact that seems to escape the left so-called antifascists who embrace Islam yet condemn Christianity and Judaism) that does not recognize the secular imperative, i.e., separation of church and state, indeed that believes that all law must come from God and brought under the control of clerics who interpret scripture. Assimilationists, respecting religious liberty, believe that Muslims are free to be Muslims, but that they should adopt the Western norm of secularism and subordinate their faith to it. Cultural pluralists counter that Muslims have a right to their culture and that Western legal systems should accommodate Islamic norms. When assimilationists insist on cultural integration, they are smeared as racist.
It should be obvious that religion and race are not the same things. Religious belief, a form of culture, is acquired through socialization. To be sure, once socialized, the Muslim is a culture-bearer, but he was not born a Muslim. While, in some cultures, a person may not be able to safely leave Islam, other cultures allow liberation from backwards cultural attitudes, beliefs, norms, and values. Those societies are the better ones. In contrast, race, constructed from phenotypic characteristics, is a physical stigmata. Again, it does not represent a distinct genotype in the way sex does, nonetheless it still marks the individual as physically different. Yet Muslims, despite being of many races, are increasingly perceived as a race (especially in Europe). What is more, Muslims are often portrayed as an oppressed race. The racialization of Muslims, which is associated with the dewhitening of Arabs (and increasingly Jews), something I have blogged about before and will blog about again in the near future, is part of a project to racialize all human conflict that does not fall under sex and gender (identity and orientation) thereby obscuring the material relations that should actually command proletarian attention, namely social class.
Beyond the agenda, racial thinking points out a very real problem in the West. Racial thinking will order our thoughts until we stop thinking racially. I cannot be an individual apart from my racial identity because of this damned irrational manner of thought. Because of widespread racial thinking, a type of thinking encouraged by our institutions and influential social movement leaders, indeed a type of thinking being taught to our children in government schools, the United States appears as a multiracial society. This is, of course, also true if you believe race is a meaningful biological category.
If American Indians demanded the expulsion of white people from North America, we would recognize the demand as racist and condemn it. The same would be true if blacks demanded a state free of whites and Asians. At least I hope we would recognize these demands as racist. But it would not be racist if an African state, even if the majority was black, insisted that Europeans assimilate to the culture of their state. It may be chauvinist. But chauvinism, defined as a belief in the strength and virtue of one’s own culture, is not a manifestation of racism. What woke progressive would consider a black African insisting on cultural integrity for his nation to be a racist? (I recognize the American Indian example is problematic given the rhetoric concerning stolen lands.)
What is it that drives the patriot to defend his homeland against threats foreign and domestic and to take pride in his country? Chauvinism. The right to a country and a nationality underpins the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. So why are some nations entitled to national pride and integrity and others condemned for it? What lies behind the assumption that the countries of the West have no right to cultural and national integrity? It’s pitched as a moral matter, but, when not an expression of envy, it’s a globalist tactic. However, a black-majority African country barring whites from immigrating there, or segregating whites on the basis of racial designation, would be racist. How many woke progressives would agree?
While I advocate immigration restrictions, it has nothing to do with excluding people on the basis of race. Any judgment I make about who we should let in on the basis of culture or religion is for entirely non-racist reasons. I have always advocated policies of multiracialism because I am an individualist. My criteria for entrance to America has nothing to do with skin color but with what impact the immigrant will have on my country. We he adopt our values and submit to the rule of law? Or will he keep his foreign values and loyalties? If the latter, he should be allowed in. If we do not have an effective system of holding him to his word, he should be allowed in. If his presence means a native-born America will have a harder life, he should not be allowed it.
Multiracial societies have existed down through time. In some cases, there is significant racism associated with them. The United States past is one of those cases. In others, racism is minimal or virtually absent. Today, in the United States, racism is minimal—at least as it has been historically understood. However, there is no inherent reason why skin color or eye shape or hair texture should form the basis of group antagonisms. Multiracial situations are only conflictual when racist ideology is present. The United States has, at least for an extended moment, sharply minimized racism and made significant progress in transcending racial thinking to a substantial degree. Given that racial antagonism is preceded by an intensification of racial thinking, progress in struggle for equality is threatened by demands for differential treatment based on ancestry and the portrayal of whites as a pariah race.
But a multiracial society, however antagonistic it is in its internal relations, is very different from a multiethnic society. Superficial multiculturalism is not a problem. Cultural diversity in art, dress, food, music, even religious faith, enriches society. In a free society, the diversity of culture is the property of all. But deep multiculturalism is destructive. Often marked by profound racial thinking, it demands the national cultural bend to its norms and values and attempts to raise cultural and religious belief above the law and over the individual. When some individuals on the basis of race or religion are denied access to public spaces, prevented from appropriating cultural traits, or experience limits on speech and expression, then an oppressive situation is manifest. When Muslims demand that their religious practices, such as wearing the hijab in public schools, be recognized, while non-Muslims are denied hoodies and other head coverings, then multiculturalism threatens the secular basis of a free society.
Doesn’t multiracialism assume racially differentiating the population is meaningful? Yes, unfortunately. The legacy of racial thinking casts a long shadow. However, inclusive multiracialism, or colorblindness, is a step in deracializing thinking. You would think this would be the rallying cry of the left, namely transcending race and struggling on the basis of class. (They seem eager to transcend gender categories, after all.) Yet there are those, especially on the left, who not only resist deracialization, but insist on racial thinking and organizing society along color lines. These same leftists rarely talk about social class. They suppose, on the basis of race, that all whites are privileged and all blacks are victims.
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I’m a sociologist. Maybe that why I can see straight away Hitchcock’s claims as confusing abstract demographic and statistical categories with concrete reality. But other sociologists and social scientists generally don’t always see this (and the proportion who don’t is ever increasing). Indeed, many sociologists have taken to living in a reified world constructed with concepts and theories that posit as real things imagined relations and structures that are falsified by obvious facts. Maybe it’s something else that enables me to see it. Atheism? Marxism?
If you believe thoughts make the world and that, therefore, others are obliged to live in the world you have thought for yourself or that others must think for you lest they deny your existence or your suffering, then you are delusional. Believe whatever you want to believe, of course, but don’t require others to believe it. Ultimately, you cannot be your delusions. As Jared Bauer, co-founder of Wisecrack, said on the podcast Unsafe Spaces a while back: selling your ancestors’ suffering is the least classy thing you can do. You are only a victim of your delusional thinking and those who taught you think like that in order to control you. However elegantly dressed in high-blown rhetoric, you’re a sucker.
As thoughts go, this notion of being on “the right side of history” is quintessentially Hegelian. To be sure, as Mills noted, even if we don’t control the history we make, history is still what we make it. History doesn’t preexist as right for people to declare standpoints for or against it. Ultimate right and wrong lie in the intrinsic and universal facts of the human species and its needs. That’s a Darwinian question. But it’s also a Marxian one. Stepping back and pondering, one will realize how absurd it is to describe the woke left as “Marxist.” Both the progressive left and the conservative right make this error.
Black Lives Matter, critical race theory, etc., are not, whatever they think of themselves, Marxist. They’re Hegelian. They do not see ideas as apprehending the world, but instead see the world as the projection of ideas—and the ideas they demand centering are alienated projections of their social situation shaped by class power. They want their politics to be about power, but they are ignorant of the actual character of power. If they could see, they would grasp that they are in fact not opponents, but agents of prevailing power, which is, again, class power.
It’s idealism that absorbs people into categories of thought and supposes these constructions are essential. Materialists know that the categories of thought are for grappling with the actual structures of reality. For idealists, group abstractions substitute for concrete individuals. It’s an irrational mode of thought. And a reactionary one. CRT believes that a man carries the guilt of his ancestors’ crimes. On the basis of his race, a man is guilty for what others do. That’s not materialism. That’s idealism. And it’s an idealism of the most primitive sort. It’s regression to ancient religious thinking. The woke world is a world of demons and witches. With a materialist turn, if one supposes a man carries on his genes the sins of the past, then the man just becomes another type of racist. Whatever sort of racist you are, calling yourself an “antiracist” won’t save you.
For the true believers, conflating culture and ethnicity with race at once mystifies culture and ethnicity and renders judgment on entire races of people. The attributes of Western civilization are expressions of white supremacy. They are bad because Europeans are white and white people are bad. White people constructed Western culture in the way they did in order to privilege themselves while subordinating nonwhites (never mind that certain groups of Asians outperform Europeans by Western standards).
But culture and ethnicity are not things that exist in the ethereal realm of abstract racial categories and essences. They are anthropological facts, and their attributes, the differential commitments to authoritarianism, egalitarianism, humanism, liberalism, secularism, that is the attitudes, beliefs, habits, norms, and values that differentiate cultures and ethnicities, are carried by concrete individuals who are, sadly, often taught that they must act this way or that or betray the abstract group with which they have been conditioned to identify. Coming out of race thinking is like coming out of religious things because, in the final analysis, they are both ideological systems.
Here’s some of those facts: Most poor people are white (see “They Do You This Way”). They don’t control the wealth or direct the power in their country. Even though poor blacks are less than four percent of the US population, they represent more than one quarter of food stamp recipients. How is black overrepresentation in a major government program servicing the poor systemic evidence of racism? (I can come up with a theory about that, but it won’t be a woke one.) Here’s another fact: There are black families who own and control the means of production, employing and controlling workers to whom they extract value in the wage-labor system. One more: There are blacks in positions of political power, in some cities they are among those who make the policies that keep black neighborhoods in poverty and underprotected from the violence crime that plagues those communities. This was true in 1998 when Hitchcock gave his speech.
American society is already multiracial. It always has been multiracial, in fact. Multiracialism doesn’t carry values but rather reflects a value we hold in America, namely the ethic of individualism. The question is whether the nation can survive multiculturalism, where groups are permitted to stand up separate norms and rules systems in the context of a nation-state. How is each citizen to stand equal before the law when his fate is determined by norms and rules at variance with it? How is the rule of law of a particular quality—humanist, liberal, rational, and secular—to enjoy the cultural integrity necessary for upholding that law if culture bearers with obstinate attitudes refuse to integrate with mainstream culture or if assimilation is equated with racism and neglected or forbidden?
The answer to these question is that it can’t. And that’s why it’s so important to differentiate between, on the one hand, multiracialism, where every person is equal before the law regardless of race, i.e., colorblindness, and, on the other hand, multiculturalism, where the fate of the individual is determined by the cultural system in which she is born and compelled to endure. Multiculturalism is modern-day tribalism. The point of the Enlightenment was emancipation from such tribal arrangements.