The epidemic of virtue-signaling: worse than COVID-19

The senseless killing of George Floyd has resulted in a flurry of breast-beating from people straining to outdo one another in expressing their wokeness by sharing sensationalistic hashtags and hammering into submission anyone who questions the narrative of systemic racism or (God forbid) the possibility that this homicide was not racially motivated.

Some of these dissenters ingenuously defend themselves by itemizing their black friends, not realizing they are setting themselves up for an unwinnable back-and-forth display of intersectionality credentials.  In the final analysis, personal experience does not make anyone an "expert" on the needs and aspirations of anyone else.  A better strategy is to expose the attacker's outrage for the shallow and self-serving charade it really is.

Virtue signaling is never about "standing up" for anyone because it never speaks truth to power.  Just as it took zero courage for Oprah Winfrey to proclaim, "Your time is up" after Harvey Weinstein hit rock bottom, it takes zero courage to denounce obvious instances of police brutality.  This feeding frenzy is about only asserting moral superiority or (as in the case of Oprah) mitigating guilt by association.  This is precisely why the so-called "victim's rights" organization named after Oprah's gutless screed folded like a cheap lawn chair as soon as Joe Biden's accuser solicited its help.

Whenever the media showcase rare instances of police brutality, it takes real courage to point out:

  1. the far more disproportionate rate at which white police officers are killed by black men.
  2. the fact that nearly half of the 12,000 to 18,000 U.S. homicides per year are black-on-black, even though blacks make up only 12% of the population.
  3. the overwhelming number of black lives saved by proactive policing.

All homicides are a tragedy, including the 16–24 black-on-black murders that happen every day in America.  Unjustified killings of African-Americans by police make national headlines because they are uncommon, and no amount of screening will cull every bad apple from the 700,000+ officers currently serving in America.

Absentee fathers and the soft bigotry of low expectations are far greater threats to the black community than the small minority of power-tripping police officers or social misfits marching with tiki torches on Charlottesville.

How many of the limousine liberals expressing "solidarity" with the family of George Floyd oppose policies that really empower minorities such as right to work legislation, streamlined occupational licensing, and school choice?  Since none of these governing principles affects people in the managerial class, why don't they learn objectively how the policies affect people outside their protective bubble?  Don't hold your breath; people who regard themselves as "model citizens" never research anything outside their comfort zones.  This is how we got the Deep State.

Hannah Arendt wrote Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil following the trial of Adolf Eichmann.  What struck her the most about the main organizer of the Holocaust was his intellectual shallowness — the same absence of self-reflection you may find in virtue-signaling elites who bail out rioters and express solidarity with dubious organizations like Black Lives Matter.  From their gated communities, they fail to reflect upon the countless black lives and fortunes destroyed both directly and indirectly by the turmoil they are encouraging.

Last year, a philanthropist pledged millions of dollars to repair the damage at Notre Dame Cathedral.  In response to this story, I heard someone indignantly declare, "Why don't they just give this money to the homeless?"  This reminded me of a Gospel passage from Mark 14:

While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came having an alabaster jar of ointment of pure nard — very costly. She broke the jar, and poured it over his head. But there were some who were indignant among themselves, saying, "Why has this ointment been wasted? For this might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and given to the poor." So they grumbled against her.

In the verses that follow, Jesus called out their virtue-signaling by pointing out that their "concern" for the poor rendered them oblivious to the bigger picture:

"Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want to, you can do them good; but you will not always have me."

A pastor whose name I do not recall provided an ideal guide for self-reflection: "If you feel the need to prove your heart is in the right place, it probably isn't."  Keep this in mind before you start posting angry emojis under this article.

Antonio Chaves teaches biology at a local community college. His interest in economic and social issues stems from his experience teaching environmental science. His older articles with graphs and images are available here.