By Robert Tracinski
Thursday, March 16, 2017
An image has been circulating around the Internet listing “10 Ways You Can Actively Reject Your White Privilege.” Take a read, because this is really instructive.
The first thing that struck me about these rules are that the white people who comply with it most fully are: the resurgent racists of the “alt-right.”
Rule 1? The alt-right usually take up minimal space at anti-racism rallies—the most minimal space possible. Rule 2? They’re not likely to live in “gentrified” upper-middle-class city neighborhoods. Rules 4 and 5? They don’t care about the “diversity” of their organizations, they presumably don’t have black friends, and as far as I can tell they have little interest in learning about the black urban subculture.
Rule 6? The alt-right are happy to put a spotlight on the black people who seem most radical and dangerous. They may not follow rules 3 and 7—but man, have they got rule 10 down. They will insist to you repeatedly that everyone is racist and there’s nothing we can do about it. That’s their whole shtick.
I’m obviously being a bit satirical in saying that the alt-right creeps are the perfect adherents of these rules for guilty white liberals. But there’s a point to the satire.
Notice that most of these rules are about fighting racism by pushing the races apart rather than bringing them together. It’s about telling white people to stay away from your rallies, or at least to stay in the background. It’s about telling them to stay out of your neighborhoods, to stop trying to learn your slang or music, and to stay out of conversations about race. Last, most ironic of all, it tells them to give up on the whole underlying cause of getting rid of racism. Way to attract allies and fire up the troops.
The ten rules are condensed from a longer article at a blog for a leftist Christian organization that is basically the First Church of Wokeness. (If you’re not familiar with “woke,” I’ll send you—where else?—to Urban Dictionary.)
In its longer version, I’m almost sympathetic to the article’s goals, because it’s not really aimed at me or at most of the readers of this article. It’s aimed at a certain species of overly zealous white “liberal”—the kind for whom anti-racism and being “down with the struggle” is regarded less as an actual cause than as a status symbol. They’re the sort of people to whom those of us on the Right apply the term “virtue signaling,” which refers to taking a political stand out of a desire to signal your exalted moral status to peers in your social group. If you describe yourself as “woke,” for example, it is almost certain that you are engaging in virtue signaling. It’s what we used to call “moral preening.”
But the proposed solution to that problem, to tell white liberals to go to sit down, shut up, and go to the back of the anti-racism bus, just makes the broader problem worse.
The most perceptive and important thing written on the current state of racial politics is Shelby Steele’s White Guilt, which is therefore almost universally ignored. At the close of the civil rights movement, he argues, the issue of racism ceased to be about actual racism. Instead, it became a weapon used to take away moral authority from some people and give it to others.
The Left, which had been looking for a way to delegitimize the entire American economic and political system, seized on it for that purpose. Rather than get caught on the wrong side of this wave of white guilt, white “liberals” adopted ritualistic ways of disassociating themselves from the guilt of racism and shifting that association onto others. The most spectacular example was the overnight transformation of the Democratic Party, in which the party of slavery and segregation suddenly cast off all of those associations and shifted responsibility for the entire history of racism onto the party of Lincoln.
The result was that rejection of racism, instead of becoming a universal creed above partisan bickering, got reduced to a narrow partisan cudgel, a way of beating up people who disagree with you and making you feel good about yourself by comparison.
But now it has gotten out of control, and blacks and other minorities have started to realize the extent to which they were being used as a tool of somebody else’s self-validation. So white “liberals” who thought the system was rigged to make them look like the good guys are now finding themselves cast on the wrong side in an ever-intensifying struggle over who gets to control the fount of moral authority that is racial politics.
Andrew Sullivan notices this and writes an interesting dissection of “intersectionality.” This is the new mechanism for putting white lefties in their place and subordinating them to the proper victim groups. Sullivan sums it up as “a recent neo-Marxist theory that argues that social oppression does not simply apply to single categories of identity—such as race, gender, sexual orientation, class, etc.—but to all of them in an interlocking system of hierarchy and power.” In other words, it’s the Victimhood Olympics, in which the big prize of supreme moral authority goes to the person who belongs to the greatest number of intersecting victim groups.
Sullivan points out the most disturbing part about this religion: it has no paradise, no end point it is striving to reach. It is a worldview with no eschaton to immanentize. “The only thing this religion lacks, of course, is salvation. Life is simply an interlocking drama of oppression and power and resistance, ending only in death. It’s Marx without the final total liberation.”
For the “intersectional” left, racial conflict is not a means to some greater end. It is the end. That’s what makes this ultimately compatible with the alt-right, who want the same thing. Indeed, you could say that “intersectional” racial politics needs white supremacists as a permanent bogeyman to justify further conflict.
The Left has embraced a racial politics that doesn’t seek to gather people together in a common cause, but instead seeks to divide them into separate groups in a never-ending ritual of power struggles. They had better be careful what they wish for, because at the rate they’re going, they just might get it—and smash everything to pieces.