Remember Casey Kasem? The voice of Shaggy on Scooby Doo? Those sweet tones lulled you to sleep as a kid—not the cartoon character, but American Top 40. You always knew Kasem was white. His full name was Kemal Amin Kasem. He was Lebanese Druze. Does his Middle Eastern origin make him nonwhite? Of course not. Remember Jamie Farr? Maxwell Q. Klinger, the crossdressing corporal from M.A.S.H.? Farr was Lebanese, too. But you also always saw him as white. To be sure, Farr was thought by many to be “ethnic.” But, then, most Americans are in some sense ethnic. Italian. Jewish. Greek. Polish. German. If assimilation works right, those differences go away over time. But all the people remain racially white.
As I explained in a recent blog, Almost Everybody in the Bible is White, I agree with the late Harvard professor Richard Lewontin that race is not really about types but about ancestry. Offspring look like their parents and, given thousands of years of relative geographical and sociocultural independence, albeit fuzzy around the margins thanks to admixture, inherited traits cluster. However, they do so in a manner that corresponds with long-standing intuitive understandings of racial groups operationalized by physical anthropologists in the twentieth century: Amerindian, Australoid, Caucasoid, Mongoloid, and Negroid—with the last three groups comprising most of the world’s population. So the matter is not as straightforward as the “race is a social construction” line would have it.
I have argued in the past that, if racial is a social construction, then we should stop socially constructing it. However I think about the matter today, I still don’t care personally whether Kasem and Farr are white in some essential way. I never thought about it growing up. In fact, by the 1970s, most people didn’t think much about race at all. But it appears that people today are obsessed by race, so much so that they feel the need to center it and engage in a project to reracialize the world’s population. That there is a project underway to disrupt common-sense understanding that Arabs, Indians, Jews, and Hispanics are for the most part white is undeniable. You don’t have to be obsessed with essentialist notions of race to wonder what’s up with that.
In this blog, which is a followup to Almost Everybody in the Bible is White, I argue that the reracialization of selected world populations, in particular the majorities of peoples of West Eurasia and Central and South America, functions as a gaslighting project with two ulterior motives: (1) redefinition of Western resistance to foreign culture as not merely nativist but racist (of course the negative connotations nativism has assumed does much of this work itself); (2) the reflexive portrayal of Western civilization as intrinsically white supremacist and the spread and entrenchment of its ideals, values, and norms as representing the imperialist expansion of white-racial power.
Using this frame, the rational humanism that conceptualizes humans as individuals equal in moral worth is supplanted by romantic schemes depicting humans as personifications of abstract demographic and racial categories arrayed in a hierarchy of oppressed and oppressor. Moreover, race and culture are conflated. Even science is under attack, with the postmodernist offering up “indigenous” and “marginalized” “ways of knowing” as alternatives to fact and reason, which the disaffected zealously put central to a leftwing identitarian ideology.
The war on the West is prosecuted with an arsenal of lies and half-truths—and that’s why I care about this issue. Race could disappear tomorrow for the right reasons, namely colorblindness and individualism, and I would be ecstatic. But when race is used as a weapon to advance racism in another form, I can’t standby. And racism in another form is, as I have documented in numerous blogs on my Freedom and Reason, is what antiracism represents. As somebody who has opposed racism his entire life, I have to be concerned about this. Indeed, I would describe my ethic as “antiracism,” except that today’s antiracism is a euphemism for anti-white. (See Is There Systemic Anti-White Racism? and The Metaphysics of the Antiracist Inquisition.)
We see growing awareness of the racism against whites. Douglas Murray tells Lex Fridman in a recent interview concerning his book, The War on the West, “that today in America the only group you’re actually allowed to be consistently vilely racist against are white people. If you say disgusting things about black people in America in 2022 you will be over. You will be over. If you decide to talk about people’s white tears, their white female tears, their white guilt, their white privilege, their white rage, and all these other pseudo-pathologizing terms, you’ll be just fine. You could be the Chairman of Joint Chief of Staff. You could lecture at Yale University. Absolutely fine. And the white people are going to have to suck that up as if that’s fine because there was racism in another direction in the past.” (I have been on to this for some time. See Reparations and Blood Guilt; For the Good of Your Soul: Tribal Stigma and the God of Reparations; A specter is haunting America—the specter of reparations.)
I feel the need to define a few terms before proceeding. Reracialization is when a population known to be of one race, for example, white, is redefined to appear as nonwhite, often in unusual ways, such as redefining culture or, more specifically, ethnicity as race, as in the cases of Arabs and Hispanics, or identifying faith in a religious doctrine as a differentiating racial types, as in the case of Muslims. (See (“Race, Ethnicity, Religion, and the Problem of Conceptual Conflation and Inflation”; “Muslims are Not a Race. So why are Academics and Journalists Treating Them as if They Were?” “Sinead O’Connor and the Conflation of Race and Religion.”)
To be sure, races may be redefined over lengthy periods of time; however, when race is redefined over a relatively short period of time by elite and popular forces hailing from a particular political-ideological framework, it is reasonable to assume an agenda. Moreover, while concepts may make non-things appear real, they do not in the final analysis create reality; whatever a people may call something does not change what it is. A man remains an adult human male regardless of whether the Merriam-Webster dictionary redefines “male” as a person who identifies as such. Being a male, whatever word one wishes to use, is ultimately defined by natural history. Unless, of course, one is a postmodernist, in which case he is useless as a source of knowledge.
Gaslighting is when a person or persons attempts to disrupt common sense understandings by disordering perceived reality. When all your life you have understood some thing or situation in a certain way and would continue to understand that thing or situation that way but for efforts to disrupt your understandings, then either you’re being enlightened or you’re being gaslit. The difference depends on whether there is a rational or empirical reason for disrupting common sense understandings, such as in educating a person with knowledge, i.e. validated or verified belief, serving greater benevolent interests, or whether the disruption is motivated by some ideological or ulterior purpose, such as to deceive or manipulate for destructive or selfish reasons. (I have written quite a bit on this. See, e.g., Intelligent, well-meaning, young people are willing to call white black and The Future of a Delusion: Mass Formation Psychosis and the Fetish of Corporate Statism.)
Race, however much the prevailing typology is supported by evidence, is neither a matter of genotype nor indicates essence. The claim that the races ascertained through common sense represent distinct genotypes of the human species (apart from rare anomalies, there are only two genotypes in our species, namely female and and male), has been debunked by the scientific fields of genetics and physical anthropology. There are indeed clusters of phenotypic constellations, but the differences are small. This does not, however, necessary mean the differences are insignificant (we want to avoid the Lewontin fallacy), but it does mean that the differences do not amount to distinct genotypes. Race, if we wish to keep the term, refers to factors revealed by statistical analysis of genetic traits (factor analysis).
The claim that race is the manifestation of an essence of one sort or another is a mystification that comes with a catalog of irrationalisms, such as the fallacy of cultural appropriation. Again, what we call race is the product of a long historical practice of categorizations organized around selected phenotypic characteristics acquired through inheritance of allele pairs across geographical areas. We are beneath the skin and hair and behind the color of our eyes the same with the same basic needs of happiness, liberty, life, and love. It follows that culture is neither produced by nor belongs to any particular race. Our outward appearances may not be pleasing to all who scan us, but we are not more or less on account of them. Moreover, the averages differences and overlapping distribution between racial groups are abstractions. Concrete individuals may be anything and each has his own intrinsic worth.
What we have in a common-sense fashion referred to as race all these years is thus actually reference to ancestry (see Richard Lewontin’s “Confusion About Human Races”). Those with white or light skin, anomalies aside, are descended from those who had white or light skin in the past. Of course, different races may have light skin. Or dark skin. There are individuals on the Indian subcontinent who are dark. A team of geneticists led by Sarah Tishkoff has documented a remarkable amount of variation of skin color within Africa, ranging from skin as light as some Asians to the darkest skin found in the world (see The varying skin colors of Africa: light, dark, and all in between). There are light-skinned people in the West and in the East who are said to be of different races. However, majorities in North Africa, Western Asia (ethnic Arabs), Central Asia, and much of South Asia, Europe, and North, Central, and South America (descendants of ethnically Europeans) with light skin have historically been classified as white. Light-skinned East Asians have not been, but are often treated as such either analogically in hierarchies or similarly in Western societies.
There is a conversation that can be had about the history of race as a concept in the development of science and the current notion of clines as described by scientists that I will leave to one side except to express concern that such a standard might become in the hands of the new racialists a tool to further Balkanize populations. I discuss these matters in other entries on Freedom and Reason, but it should suffice to reiterate that we know from large-scale populations genetics studies, archeology, and physical anthropology that our common sense notions of race align with the geographical distribution of phenotypic features. It is not likely that, despite common sense understandings existing on a different plane from scientific ones, populations around the world, operating from varied worldviews, would arrive at a simultaneously false yet uniformly common understanding of race. The evidence would have to be radically different from what we know or what we expect to undermine those common-sense understandings.
As noted earlier, the inspiration for this blog entry is a meme claiming that nobody in the Bible was white. As if this “truth” is common knowledge among those who are not made stupid by white supremacy, something that the wise meme-maker already in the know already know, the meme obnoxiously condescends: “Take all the time you need.”
I encounter this argument quite frequently. Here is a recent example from the Mission Resource Network (MRN): “Why There are No White People in the Bible.” The article gives itself away in the opening paragraphs. “Did you know there are no white people in the Bible? Does that surprise you? It’s true, I assure you. Not Adam, Abraham, Moses, Deborah, David, Elijah, Jezebel, Daniel, Jesus, Peter, Paul, or even Lydia or the church in Rome were white. Most of the people in the Bible were Jews of middle eastern origin. The few people in the Bible from the region we now call Europe may have had light-colored skin and would be considered white today, but they were not white in their day.”
The author of that MRN essay, Dan Bouchelle, the president of the organization, offers this as his reason for making the claim: “How can I say this? Because the concept of whiteness didn’t exist yet.” Whether he knows it or not, Bouchelle is making a postmodernist move, one that means to deny the existence of some thing or situation by noting that it was not known as then by the name it goes by now, as if something exists only because language creates it—and, moreover, that language is but the oppressive expression of power asymmetry. If people of today were able to time travel, would they not find that the people living in “the region we now call Europe” were white? Or, by some yet unidentified process underpinning an unobserved phenomenon, would their minds be caused to forget the common racial terms we use to describe people? This is a bizarre conclusion, but one nonetheless following from the claims made in the essay.
The reality is that reality is not called into existence by words. That is the work of religious mentality. If you were to time travel to the Levant of biblical times and see people you would recognize as white, then those are white people. Of course. They don’t suddenly become not white because somebody told you that these people did not define themselves as white. Moreover, the color “white” is a shorthand for the constellation of phenotypic traits identified as caucasian, which, as I have documented, covers West Eurasia (as far east as the Indian subcontinent) and North Africa. The “There are No White People in the Bible” thesis could not be more incorrect from a scientific standpoint—or a common sense one.
This rhetorical move does not save Bouchelle (it couldn’t anyway) from the claims he made in the essay regarding middle eastern Jews and light-skinned Europeans. As I explain in Almost Everybody in the Bible is White, the natural history of skin color runs in the other direction. It is a common error to assume that light-skin originates in Europe. Light skin among those understood to be white (however they may have been understood in the past) are the result of mutation and natural selection, migration patterns, and large-scale changes in food production in the Fertile Crescent, an area that extends from Northeast Africa through Mesopotamia in Southwestern Asia. This history means that white skin first appears in the geographical area from which the myths taken up by the ancient Hebrews lived and spread to Europe from there.
If white skin originated in the Levant, which all archeological and anthropological evidence demonstrates, confirmed by population genetics studies, then the Hebrews, the focal tribe of the Bible, and the tribes around them, were white people, differentiated in their day from those who were not—those in East Asia and in Sub-Saharan Africa (they could not have known about the Amerindian). The white farmers of the Levant migrated to Europe, spreading the genes for white skin and other phenotypic traits there. The original inhabitants of Europe, those who had not developed large-scale agriculture, were dark-skinned (it is likely that those who built Stonehenge, for example, where dark-skinned). Over time, through assimilation, conquest, and interbreeding, dark-skinned Europeans were replaced by light-skinned people. The fact is that, while Abraham, Isaac, Moses, and, yes, even Jesus, may be (and very likely are) mythical figures, they would have been, were their historicity actual (which is doubtful), white.
Those of us who have always known that the leading characters in the biblical stories we read or heard as children were white are not wrong. There is no rational or empirical reason to suggest we were. So why the gaslighting? Our common-sense understandings are not being disrupted to enlighten us. Except for the attempt to purge scientific language of terms disliked by woke progressives, the science hasn’t changed. If anything, advancements in genetics and biomedicine are strengthening claims about human variation (which is why I do not as easily as I did in the past reduce race to social construction). Those who make and spread these memes and write and promote these essays do not have privileged knowledge. Their condescension is not justified. Either they are ignorant themselves or they are gaslighting those they mean to manipulate. Manipulate to what end? We’re coming to that now.
Bouchelle’s motive is ostensibly a religious one: “Jesus wasn’t white. Seventy percent of Christians globally are not white. And all people matter equally to our creator.” In fact, of the approximately 2.2 million Christians in the world, more than 60 percent of them are white. I doubt those who make these arguments or most of those who share them are ignorant of this fact. They have reasons, and Bouchelle’s reasons does not exhaust the catalog. At the very least, the reracialization of selected human populations has functions and consequences. Bouchelle’s argument is therefore essentially political. There are two reasons that emerge from this effort to gaslight the world that strongly suggest that reracialization is not being pursued for the sake of enlightenment (in which case it would still be wrong).
First, it is not the case that the West became the most highly developed civilization in world history because the people there are white. As documented, Europe became white with the westward migration of near eastern farmers from the Fertile Crescent. It is thus the case that modern Europeans are white, as are the peoples of North Africa and Southwest Asia, etc., because they descended from those with white skin. The West developed for many reasons, including norms and values associated with European culture. Only white supremacists claim it is the result of racial superiority, and white supremacists are a vanishing segment of western populations.
But critics of the West, on the basis of the skin color of Europeans, claim that Western civilization and its values represent white supremacy. The spread of Western ideals around the world are interpreted not as the great civilizing force in world history that developed humanity, abolishing slavery, liberating women, freeing people from grinding poverty and autocratic rule, etcetera, but instead as racist colonialism—even an instantiation of metaphysical evil. It is true what Murray says: anti-white racism is deep and dangerous. Yet this is the standard history now being taught in the Western university; it is no accident that this interpretation is widespread. And this interpretation has been pushed down into public education. Our children are being taught race hatred and the white kids in particular self-loathing.
What is the function of all this? Is it no obvious? To delegitimize the civilization that gave the world the modern nation-state with its democratic-republican form of government, and its liberal values of humanism and secularism, by claiming that it is the work of the white race which carries in its heart great evil. Why would such a thing be desired? In order to advance the globalization project of denationalizing the West while transnationalizing corporate power. Thus nationalism, that great detribalizing force that liberated humanity from ancient institutions, becomes redefined as a racist and oppressive force that itself warrants dismantling.
In contrast, those ancient institutions supplanted by western norms and values become exoticized, heroized, and romanticized, and its backwards-kept populations portrayed as the racialized victims owed the wealth of the West “stolen” by the “white oppressor.” The notion that the wealth and progress produced by the ingenuity not of white people but of Europeans is portrayed as an expression of eurocentrism, of racist chauvinism. To avoid implicating all Eurasian populations, non-European whites are redefined as non-white. What are they? Nobody can answer that question. They have become either raceless or their geographic location or ethnic and religious identities are substituted.
But race is not culture. Race is not ethnicity. European culture is superior to other cultures not because most of its population is white, but because it does a better job of realizing, among other things, human rights. If this culture were the product of whiteness, then why is the Middle East so underdeveloped? (The Third Worldist has a quick answer, and it is not entirely wrong, but I assure you that it will fail to account for the atavistic force of Islam. Such is ideology.)
In light of all this, since the antiracists are representing not only nonwhites, but also whites in much of Africa, Asia, and the Americas, there is a need to redefine these white populations as nonwhite in order to divide the world in a clean way: Europe, with its nation-states modeling and serving prominent role in the interstate system, recast as the source and sole expression of white supremacy, over against the rest of the world, over against the oppressed masses, so oppressed because they are not white, having been redefined as such.
We are thus witnessing to the emergence of a false ideology that serves the transnationalization project. It should not escape anyone’s attention that you are to pay attention to all this and not the fact of world economic forces who establish the class systems that finds the vast majority of us, whatever our racial identity, as exploited labor or labor made redundant by technological development—a development not made available to the masses to end their suffering, but to stuff the coffers of those who run the system. And those who run the system are the very ones who are gaslighting the masses.
The strategy to change the dynamic is to feed resentment, to provoke reracialized populations to demand racial reparations for colonialism, for Europe and the United States open their borders to the world, for example, in the European case, Arab populations that are overwhelmingly Muslim. The end goal is to transfer the wealth of the West to the transnational administrative state. European elites, convinced of antiracist revisionism, have opened their borders, much to the suffering of Europeans. When elites and masses seek to restrict the flows because of the chaos it brings even to their doorstep, they are accused of racism. Why? Because they are closing the borders to nonwhites? No. They’re closing the borders to culture-bearers who refuse to assimilate to western norms and values who will do the work they used to do. But reracialization permits the recasting of resistance to incompatible culture and to economic displacement as racism.
Thus we see the hypocritical demand that the world observe the right of nonwhites to cultural integrity, whether in their own nations or as minorities in western nations, while at the same time depictions of the demand for the same right to cultural integrity of whites as racist and chauvinist. Europeans have no right to their culture because they’re white. This is racism. This racism incentivizes groups external and internal to the West to redefine their populations as nonwhite in order to portray themselves of victims of racist colonialism (external and internal) and justifying their demand that Europe given them the things they want, especially access to the wealth produced by other people. The project is expressed in the West as postcolonialism, third-worldism, critical race theory, etc., all of this underpinned by cultural and moral relativism relativism, cultural pluralism, postmodernism, and New Left critical theory.
This portrayal of race and history obscures deep truths about the world. The first is the role of Western culture in the development across economic, legal, moral, and political domains throughout the world. The modern nation-state and human rights are but a couple of these developments. Reaching the zenith of historical and social development testifies to the superiority of western norms and values. The second deep truth is the role of capitalism, a class system organized on the basis of the private ownership and control of the means of production for purposes of profit generation and capitalist accumulation, in the development and expansion of western culture, the good and the bad of it. Capitalism is an economic force that is at once founded upon the exploitation of human labor while raising the living standards of the majority of people incorporated in the system.
This is the real struggle: the struggle of the peoples of the world against transnational corporate capitalism. The real struggle, if it is just, requires democratization of the means of production in the context of responsive nation-states in an international liberal order that preserves the values and practices of civic nationalism, equality before the law, humanism, individualism, liberalism, republicanism, and secularism. The reracialization project functions to derail the development of the shared proletarian consciousness and politics that threatens the power of corporate elites.
By disrupting common-sense understandings and manufacturing and promoting antagonisms based on racial animosity, corporate elites rule via a divide-and-conquer strategy. Because the most developed regions of the world are majority white, shrinking the numbers of those understood as such, turning white people into a pariah, incentivizing populations to escape association with such a pariah, the transnational powers-that-be seek to denationalize the trans-Atlantic system and appropriate its technology and wealth.
When I was in graduate school in the 1990s, the prevailing (and I still believe correct) explanation for global inequality and the dynamic of development and underdevelopment identified the capitalist mode of production and its attendant class system as the primary causal forces. From the standpoint of the materialist conception of history, the history of the racialization of human populations was theorized as false consciousness justifying exploitative economic relations.
I became interested in the possibility of a synthesis of historical materialism and critical race theory in which the latter would be articulated in language indicating the ontological status of the former. I was drawn to this synthesis because, as I was preparing the proposal for my dissertation, I became increasingly frustrated with description of racism as largely ideological (see the work of Barbara Fields, whom I now believe to have been correct) and endeavored instead to conceptualize racism as a material relation in the manner of social class. I used the model in my dissertation, which I successfully defended in the summer of 2000, a two-volume 800-plus page study of America’s history of class, race, and criminal justice.
However, as time went on, it became increasingly clear that this synthesis confused categories of things and, moreover, lacked empirical support, especially with respect to criminal justice. Whereas economic modes of production and social class relations are material, objective, oppressive, and protected in law, oppression on the basis of race had been abolished in law and the explanation for inequality along lines of race as the work of race oppression was not compelling; too many other factors (breakdown of family structure, culture of idleness and violence, neighborhood disorganization, progressive politics) were in play.
The core problem in theorizing inequality today is the centering of race in the explanation, a centering that works to obscure the actual source of exploitative and oppressive social relations: the system of social class. I write about this in my essay The New Left’s War on Imaginary Structures of Oppression in Order to Hide the Real Ones. This problem is why I write so much about the problem of racism.