Originally published at: The Faith of Systemic Racism – Quillette
We hear constantly about the systemic racism coursing through America. Everything, we’re told, is shot through with hate. It does not matter if no white person ever has actually thought a hateful thought. The structure, or system, these innocents inhabit and profit from was designed by those who hated with abandon; the hate is baked…
Originally published at: The Faith of Systemic Racism – Quillette
This is really not that hard.
Suppose you were a ruling class of educated and evolved geniuses. And suppose you passed a brilliant civil rights act to end racial discrimination forever. And suppose you passed a bunch of Great Society legislation to hand out loot and plunder to the victims of racial discrimination. And suppose you did a bit of quotas and affirmative action and diversity to nudge things along. And suppose you Made Things Worse.
What would you do?
Would you say: wow, we are really sorry, we nuked the black family; we nuked the schools where black kids go to school. We made the cities where blacks live into crime-ridden hell-holes? Back to the drawing board!
Not a bit of it.
Or, as they say in The Secret Garden, “Nowt o’ th’ sort!”
You would say that malevolent forces are at work. Racist forces, systemic racist forces, white oppressors, patriarchal conspiracies, meeting in the dark of night, planning armed insurrections.
You would never admit that your ideas are at best stupid, at worst evil. Inconceivable! Why “we” are the educated ones; “we” are the evolved ones; “we” are the ones who care. It’s the Other guys that are evil.
Once you get this, it all makes sense.
At some quite abstract level, the accusation of ‘systemic racism’ is very true. America is (was) generally quite devoted to the values or rationality, logic, and reason. In other words, the enlightenment. Of course, the vast of Americans could no more describe what the enlightenment was, than Kepler’s laws.
However, that is irrelevant. From the time of the Revolution, America has been essentially an enlightenment country.
Predictably, some groups of people will do better in a society devoted to the enlightenment than others. Let’s use math as a case in point. Jews do better in math than non-Jews. Of course, Asians do better than non-Asians.
Now we have a new ideology (religion) that hold that math is racist. It is literally true that a person by the name of Laurie Rubel stated ‘2+2=4 reeks of white supremacist patriarchy’. Of course, that is just the insanity of one person. Much more seriously, California and Oregon has embraced (to a greater or lesser extent), the document ‘A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction Dismantling Racism in Mathematics Instruction’ (funded by the Gates foundation).
Of course, enlightenment values aren’t racist at all. Indeed, they lean strongly towards treating each individual as an individual. When Martin Luther King, said ‘I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character’ he was both expressing and embracing enlightenment values.
It is a sad truth that people and groups of people will not thrive equally in a society devoted to enlightenment values. That does not mean that the society is racist (far from it), but that equal opportunity will not yield equal results.
This is poetry; it is a wonderfully worded piece. It captures the spirit. I will honor it by taking a step back, and waiting a moment, and let others respond, before I even try to highlight points.
“Spectral evidence,” that is to say intangible evidence from the sprit world, was the essential element of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.
Indeed, all totalitarian regimes depend on the publics’ uncritical acceptance of the Party’s own spectral evidence.
A great article that provides a very fitting analysis of the arational background of this phenomenon and the state of mind of its supporters who are driving it forward.
We are in the fascinating (if that is the right expression) situation of witnessing the takeover of a new quasi-religion, complete with enthusiastic followers, zealous fanatics, and devoted believers, with its doctrine of original sin (whiteness), purgatory (cancel culture), and eternal damnation for the morally inferior beings at the bottom of the intersectional victimhood pyramid. The new priesthood and their numerous acolytes are going to cleanse us of our sins in the name of the holy trinity of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and thus bring about heaven on earth. What’s not to like?
In my opinion, the failure of liberalism was/is a substantial factor in the rise of Cultural Marxism (CM). In the 1960s (and earlier decades and later decades) it was widely believed that liberalism would work. In other words, Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society would produce a (much) better American where poverty and race would not be intertwined and poverty itself would more or less disappear. That didn’t happen of course. Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society was roughly as successful as his war in Vietnam.
At this point it is obvious that liberalism has failed (in attaining the goals of the 1960s). Some folks have responded to this failure by basically giving up. However, the most motivated have moved to the left (far left). Note that we here far more about “systematic racism” now (when it doesn’t exist) than we did when Jim Crow was a daily reality.
However, I also think there is more to it.
The rise of Cultural Marxism is too some degree, a consequence of the fall of conventional Marxism. Conventional Marxism was (slowly) dying by the 1950s. The Soviet invasion of Hungary and later Czechoslovakia alienated (or worse) a vast number of people who might have otherwise supported the Communist system. The economic failure of Eastern Europe combined with the great success of the “Little China’s” (Macau, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan) and South Korea was a great blow to the credibility of conventional Marxism. The Cambodian genocide must be mentioned in this context as well. Of course, the fall of the USSR and China’s switch to Capitalism (and subsequent success) were the final nails in the coffin.
My sense of it is that failure of the Soviet system (and Eastern Europe) was a bigger deal than China’s switch to capitalism. The numbers make the converse case. However, I still think the failure of Soviet system (and Eastern Europe) was/is more important. I don’t agree, but that doesn’t matter.
Of course, these were monumental blows to the traditional Left. However, the Left wasn’t about to fold its tent and disappear. For better or worse, a huge section of society will never embrace bourgeois values and will be (highly) motivated to reject them. Since conventional Marxism was “the god that failed”, the Left embraced Cultural Marxism as a substitute. Of course, Cultural Marxism is just as crazy as conventional Marxism (perhaps considerably crazier). However, we don’t have easy country comparisons to show how nuts it is (i.e. no North Korea vs. South Korea).
Blank Slate ideology is arguably nuttier than old-style Marxism. However, we don’t (yet) have a Stalin or Mao to attack as the leader of it (Cultural Marxism).
As long at the Left was committed to traditional Socialism/Marxism, the right would move heaven and earth to oppose it. Big corporations, rich people, religious people, some union people, etc. all had powerful incentives to oppose traditional Socialism/Marxism. That meant that anti-communist movements, ideas, intellectuals, etc. were assuredly substantial support as long the enemy was “Real Socialism”.
By contrast, CM provokes no comparable opposition (from big corporations, rich people, religious people, etc.). Actually the reverse is true. party-line adherence to CM is notoriously profitable for some companies. For example, most Tech firms (Apple is a bad example) would be crucified by Democrats/Liberals/Leftists/etc. for their exploitation of the tax system. In real life, the level of criticism is near nil. By declaring their commitment to CM, they gain de facto immunity from criticism from the Left (the Right wouldn’t criticize them anyway).
At least the indulgences sold by church cost real money. Now you just need to pay lip service to CM.
There is also (predictably) a class element to this. Old-style Marxism was inherently (too some degree) a blue-collar worldview. Of course, that was never entirely true. Marx was an intellectual. The cliché that “Marxism is the Opiate of the Intellectuals” existed for a reason. However, conventional Marxism was never going to appeal to white, upper-middle class (UMC), liberals for all sorts of reasons, of which class was definitely an issue.
However, Cultural Marxism has no such problem. White, UMC, liberals can espouse and advocate Cultural Marxism without any contradictions (as they see them) and without restraint. Indeed, they do. Studies (Yascha Mounk) have shown that “woke” progressives are one of the least diverse (in many senses of the word) groups out there. Cultural Marxism gives UMC liberals free reign to denounce “deplorables” to their hearts content. Conventional Marxism would have been much more circumspect. Of course, upscale folks have always wanted to attack (rhetorically and otherwise) the working class. However, conventional Marxism constrained the left (but not the right) from doing so.
Cultural Marxism imposes no such limitations.
Excellent piece, congrats to the staff and writer. It has been obvious for decades (since Darwin) that you can’t get rid of your religion without replacing it with another. Unfortunately the magnitude of human folly allows that replacement with one concocted by egos to serve the purpose of always being in the right, by the ego’s judgement. Commenter chrischantrill above comment says it in another way with quite the acerbic insight. So as our multi-racial society implodes as all others in history have, we can continue to appreciate the wit and wisdom that helps us get up in the morning.
“The radical does not negotiate with an eye toward arriving at some peaceful coexistence, but a weakening—a razing—of the old order.”
This is the dividing line – those who seek progress and coexistence vs. those who want to destroy the Enemy, and that line hems in the center from both sides. The rightie fanatic is as dangerous as the leftie fanatic. Lets stop worrying about left and right, and pay more attention to up and down.
The 14th century Black Death saw the rise of numerous cults, the most prominent of which was the Flagellantes, groups who wandered from town to town, beating themselves with knotted whips in very public displays of contrition, on the assumption that such public and violent expiation of their sins would convince their imaginary god to halt the plague and spare them. The rise of the antiracism cult during Covid has been the exact equivalent, millions beating themselves and society with self hatred for imaginary sins, hoping that the imaginary god of progressive opinion would see them as the truly saintly souls they wish to be, and that the Gods of Color would forgive them for being born.
I agree, but I think it is more than this. Now that we have created so much dysfunction, let’s use it to our advantage (say the liberals) and claim we are the only ones that can fix your woes. Vote for us, even though it will not make any difference. Failed programs that we have created over the past several decades will be protected by us even though, well, they are failed programs. Vote for us and help us represent the underdog while we capture your vote.
The amazing part is that people keep falling for the line that we are your saviors, while nothing has been saved. Bad programs will be protected, not fixed or nuked as many should be.
The only reason a program fails is because we didn’t do enough of it.
Or, more to the point, we didn’t spend enough so let’s raise taxes to get more money (to dig a deeper hole).
Personally I find the argument presented here to be much more objective and compelling.
"Alas, most major institutions in America right now are making important decisions about hiring, firing, investment, programming, content, syllabi, and so forth, on the basis of a religious claim—systemic racism permeates the whole of our existence—that is necessarily unverifiable. They are being illogical when we expect them to be logical. "
This is the real danger. In communist Eastern Europe the communist ideology (a secular religion) trumped common sense and logic. Everybody could see that the market economy produces better results than the planned economy. That private property produces superior results to state-owned enterprises. But for decades the authorities stuck with a failed economic model that was driven by ideology. This undermined their hold on power and led to the collapse in 1989. Being arrational has consequences. The US has firmly stepped on the same road of religious-like beliefs overtaking rational thinking. I see it in my former line of work where business analysts and researchers conduct biased research to support the corporate embrace of essentially faith-based initiatives. And this is why I believe that the US will inevitably fall behind China economically and militarily. The Chinese communists are much less ideological than the American capitalists of today. They are much more practical and less arrational. Ultimately the country that sticks with common sense rather than religulousity wins. This country is not US anymore.
That article is paywalled, maybe a summary?
This point, that
left the world, following the implosion of the Soviet Union, with the conclusion that central planning does not work for the problems of material economics. But it really says little about what kind of system produces ‘Happiness’. Without some degree of material prosperity, there is no Happiness, but after that, what is Happiness?
That is somewhat the question of the next article in Quillette
Whoops…sorry about that. The entire piece is worth reading and can be accessed here instead.
I can’t get to it either, so can’t anticipate the details, but I expect there’s some common ground to explore. This piece, and the next Quillette article “The Rise of Post-Liberal Man”, begin to raise the question, what is the measure of the ‘equality’ we should be striving for. The racial gap in ‘economic equality’, measurable in ‘consumable’ goods and services, has been steadily closing for at least 75 or 90 years. If we strip out the statistics of the top 1% or top 0.1%, in which economic inequality has been getting worse, steadily for decades, and just look at the average household wealth of the lower 90%, or lower 99%, or lower 99.9%, then differences, between ethnic/racial groups, are even less, and it seems even more clear that the ‘problems’ are being solved.
And yet, if thru some other non-economic means of distinction, it’s clear that people of color are less ‘happy’ than ‘white people’, in that case, this could an inequality of a different sort. If Coates’ daily life is experienced as a continuous series of confrontations, challenges, micro-aggressions, then it does not create satisfaction or happiness. The ‘result’ might not be equal, even if the salaries are the same. There is some ‘respect’ factor which is felt to be missing. But how can it be defined? How can it be measured? How can it be solved? What’s apparent is that economic measures, alone, cannot solve it.