Breaking the Left's Race-Colored Glasses

The Civil Rights Movement reached its pinnacle in the 1960s with the passage of federal laws that dismantled segregation, voter suppression, and housing discrimination.  Black Americans suffered 100 years of second-class citizenship after the Civil War, and we did our whole populace a tremendous mitzvah in tearing down the legal structures that prevented millions of our fellow citizens from fully accessing the benefits of being an American.  

The assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. robbed the nation of its chief spokesman for peaceful change in race relations, but remarkably, from that fateful day in 1968 through roughly the next two and a half decades, tensions softened between blacks and whites.  The sociopolitical participation of black Americans expanded in ways that previous generations could scarcely imagine: major prime-time television series anchored by black lead actors; a black quarterback championing a Super Bowl winning team; and black mayors elected for the first time in our largest cities including Detroit, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York.  In that era, the now tragic figure of Bill Cosby became known as "America's dad"; Oprah Winfrey began her media career leading to astronomical popularity and prosperityMichael JacksonPrince, and Whitney Houston sold multiple millions of albums.  One could argue that the color line — famously decried by WEB Dubois as "problem of the 20th century" — was by the mid-1990s steadily being erased.

It's difficult to pinpoint when it began, but the movement toward racial harmony from the 1970s to 1990s suffered a tailspin at some point.  Perhaps the catalyst was the 1994 Crime Bill, which would have devastating effects among black Americans by souring their relations with police departments and vastly increasing the incarceration of black men, that kicked off in earnest a new era of racial animosity.  Since that time we have seen not only an erosion of gains in racial amicability, but a steady increase of tension between black and white Americans.  Whatever factors reignited racial enmity, we now find ourselves with the problem of the 21st century: racialism.

"Racialism" is less commonly used than its synonym "racism," but if we take liberty with its meaning (as has been done with the term "racism"), it will serve to define and confront what is currently happening in our culture.  Historically, "racism" simply meant racial hatred, but the postmodern intelligentsia has redefined it to encompass everything white Americans think, say, and do.  White Fragility author Robin DiAngelo explains:

The white collective fundamentally hates blackness for what it reminds us of: that we are capable and guilty of perpetrating immeasurable harm and that our gains come through the subjugation of others.

"Racism" has been reimagined to describe anything patriotic and grounded in Judaism or Christianity pejoratively.  White Americans are considered intrinsically biased against their black neighbors.  Western civilization is smeared as illegitimate.  The new "racism" isolates race-hatred by whites toward blacks as particularly unacceptable while excusing animosity of blacks toward whites as only a reaction to centuries of oppression.  This linguistic re-engineering of "racism" has proven a wildly effective political tool.  The left has used the new definition of racism to tie historical racial inequities to all modern hardships experienced by minorities; this allows for the implementation of a statist agenda to address these problems.  The expanded definition of racism bludgeons conservatives into a constant defensive posture against the accusation of the original sin of American hamartiology.

"Racialism" is the phenomenon of framing one's worldview with race-colored-glasses through which one sees ethnicity as the first and foremost reason for every struggle or suffering of minorities (particularly black Americans) while obscuring the appreciation of the values of individualism, personal agency, and racial reconciliation.  As an ideological one-note samba, "racialism" underpins the left's employment of its new definition of "racism."  "Racialism" accounts for the media's mad rush to ascribe motives of racial animosity to law enforcement officers; the move to wipe George WashingtonAbraham Lincoln, and other icons of American history out of the consciousness of schoolchildren; the ascendance of the 1619 Project, and so on.  It minimizes historical progress in correcting racial injustice, and it openly disregards the tragic levels of violence committed by black Americans against one another.  "Racialism" elevates a panoply of vices — grievance, guilt, pandering, pridefulness, hypersensitivity, and outright aggression — to pedestals of social priority, whereas universal virtues of forgiveness, compassion, understanding, respect, and unity are blocked, shunned, and belittled. 

O'Sullivan's Law teaches that any organization not practicing conservatism will ultimately become leftist.  Any inklings of conservative qualities in our institutions are under an unquestionably leftist dominion.  Aggression is used to prevent conservatives from speaking on campus, actors lose their careers for expressing conservative views openly, and old-time journalists like Sharyl Atkisson and Bernard Goldberg become personae non gratae among the legacy media where they had previously worked for decades.   The leftism in these institutions is often animated by the allegation of "racism" against traditional Americans, leaving conservatives in positions of muted subjugation if they wish to go to college, watch a movie, or discuss matters of public interest in polite company.

If we are to make any gains to recover ground lost in the culture war, moving the country back toward racial reconciliation and restoration of our natural rights, an effective refutation of the current definition of "racism" is urgently needed.  "Racialism" is just that rhetorical tool.  For every slander against America as inherently racist, it is necessary to define the purveyors of such calumny as racialists, pointing out how small-minded, historically myopic, and corrosive such thinking is.  We must remind these racialist advocates that if everything is racist, then nothing is racist; we must remind those people whose interests are used and abused by the left through the constant hammering of the racism allegation that this racialist activity is a surefire way to keep Americans divided and conquered.  As Booker T. Washington famously wrote:

There is another class of coloured people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public.  Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs — partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays.  Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.

The left has weaponized "racism"; conservatives have tepid defensive responses to it.  Usually, we dismiss accusations of racism by reverting to a traditional definition of the word; then we counter-argue that the left's soft bigotry of low expectations is racist.  Neither of these strategies effectively parries the left's use of "racism" to advance its agenda.  Defense may win games in sports; it does not do so in politics.  Being on defense in culture, activism, and policy means that one's side is simply trying to hold the line against opposition; this invariably creates fissures in the political bulwark and does nothing to advance one's cause.  Thus, traditional Americans who appreciate the colorblind aspirations of the Civil Rights Movement need an offensive weapon to recapture cultural and political ground.  The term "racialism" can be such an instrument to push back on the divisive, monochromatic groupthink of the "racism" accusers.

John Steinreich has an M.A. in church history from Colorado Theological Seminary.  He has authored two Christian-themed books available on Kindle: The Words of God? and A Great Cloud of Witnesses.  His works are also on Lulu Press, and he can be found online at www.facebook.com/godandgovernment and on Parler at @Godandgovernment.

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