The writer is in the United States.
IN October 2008, on the eve of the presidential election, Barack Obama boasted that ‘we are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America’. Since then, talk of radical transformation has become all too common in Leftward-leaning circles, which now include the mainstream media, the Public Broadcasting Service, the entire educational establishment, major corporations, the arts, Hollywood, billionaire celebrities who live in gated communities, the intelligence agencies, those who work for federal and local government, and the military, not to mention the Girl Scouts of America, the American Library Association, the American Association of Retired Persons and the Richard Wagner Society of the Upper Midwest, the last two of which I am a member.
I could go on: the list of institutions that espouse Leftist political positions in the United States has become legion; but suffice it to say that the ‘march through the institutions of power’ has met with much success in a land where you would least expect it – although Rudi Dutschke, who coined the phrase, were he alive today, might be disappointed by the results.
While those urging fundamental societal transformation articulate a variety of perspectives, the loudest voices invariably focus on race. Listening to them, one could be forgiven for believing that America is the most racist nation on earth, the most racist nation that has ever existed in the entire history of mankind, a nation where white police officers kill unarmed black men frequently and with impunity, despite statistics suggesting otherwise.
Since the emergence of Black Lives Matter (BLM) and the embrace of Critical Race Theory (CRT) by elites both here and in the United Kingdom, it has become almost obligatory to characterise the United States as a nation riven by systemic racism and white supremacy. Indeed, America is seen as having been founded on the enslavement and genocide of non-whites. Question tenets of this creed and you’re likely to find yourself being cancelled or labelled racist, that most injurious of contemporary slurs. Understandably, few are willing to take that risk. Even endorsing Martin Luther King’s dream of a colour-blind society where men and women are judged by the content of their characters rather than by the colour of their skins is to court career-ending criticism.
So dire have things become that it is now questionable, or evidence of unconscious racial bias, to treat your fellow Americans as if their race or ethnicity are irrelevant. Viewing racial differences in Aristotelian terms, that is, as accidental rather than essential properties of what constitutes a human being, is now increasingly suspect in Biden’s America. If you identify or are identified by others as white, believing that one’s epidermis is an erroneous measure of human worth and that character trumps all, it is now proof that you are a card-carrying racist; if you are non-white, especially if you identify or are identified by others as black, you are accused of suffering from what Marxists call a false consciousness or worse, that you are a traitor to your own race, a vile slur that was levelled at Republican challenger Larry Elder during the recent gubernatorial recall election in California, in which he was accused of being ‘the Black face of white supremacy’.
Those who peddle this hateful tripe are many and occupy positions of great power and influence at all levels of American society. Many do so to advance their careers; others are true believers; but careerism and adherence to an ideology are not mutually exclusive. ‘Systemic racism’, according to Bruce Thornton, ‘has become a gold-mine for diversity consultants and manufacturers of training videos and programs’. Ibram X Kendi, author of the bestseller How to Be an Antiracist and the truly horrifying Antiracist Baby, would no doubt agree, being able to charge schools and businesses $20,000 for a one-hour talk. Robin DiAngelo, whose White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism ‘has become a textbook of liberal orthodoxy and a totem of radical chic’, and has earned her well over two million dollars, goes one better than Kendi, earning $30,000 for a single speech.
Only by dismantling structures of racial oppression, such people tell us, and by ‘reimagining society’, will America be cleansed of the blight of systemic racism that continues to infect this citadel of white supremacy and colonialism.
Living in the United States since 1983 and being a keen student of American history, particularly as it pertains to race, I consider myself well qualified to state with absolute certainty that America is not systemically racist and that the few who champion white supremacy are a despised and ever-shrinking demographic. America ceased being systemically racist in the 1960s, when it made discrimination on the basis of race unconstitutional. To be sure, there are people of all races who discriminate against others because of their race, but there are no structures in place in the United States that qualify as structurally or systemically racist, and there haven’t been for over half a century.
In 1967, the year that witnessed the Summer of Love and the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, it was still a crime in some US states for a black man to marry a white woman under so-called anti-miscegenation laws. Those dreadful laws were struck down by the US Supreme Court that year in Loving vs. Virginia. In the 54 years since that decision, and since other landmark civil rights legislation such as the 1965 Voting Rights Act, America has already achieved what BLM, advocates of CRT, and assorted elites are urging it to do in the third decade of the twenty-first century: fundamentally to transform its attitudes on race. Those elites appear wilfully blind to the fact that the American people are way ahead of them, having transformed a nation where systemic racism undeniably existed to a nation that is one of the least racist nations on earth. While legislation has obviously helped, it is the innate decency of ordinary Americans that has made this transformation possible. That the affluent and credentialled elites who now hold hegemonic sway over most aspects of American culture refuse to recognise this should concern all of us who hold on to Dr King’s laudable dream.