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Antiracism: An Insidious Path to the Closed Society

We are receiving almost a daily understanding of what a closed society is and what it does to dissenters. The latest revelation came from—where else—The New York Times, a publication that flatters the egos and tastes of our elites and firmly demonstrates the attitudes and postures the new regime demands. They mean to rule us in this regard. Donald McNeil, a nearly four-decade writer for the Times, and a highly regarded science correspondent, was forced out because he committed the new thought crime of merely mentioning a racial slur in the context of trying to understand and analyze a previous racist use of the term by a high school student. He was on a trip with high school students who had inquired of him if he thought it correct that a classmate of theirs who was suspended for using a racist slur should, in fact, have been suspended. McNeil was asking questions and thinking about the incident, trying to gather what had occurred. You might say, he was seeking understanding. But such inquiry is no longer permitted, apparently.

As Theodore Dalrymple recently observed in this space, there is no defense that one can use against the allegation of objective racism, that is, intent and context no longer matter in the determination of a racist allegation. If one is deemed to cause racist offense by a hearer, then perforce, one is a racist. Andrew Sullivan remarked that McNeil’s apology appeared to have been compelled by the Khmer Rouge. I found McNeil’s apology to his fellow writers to be abject and demeaning—to himself—and to any reasonable criteria of fairness and justice.

When such events occur, we must take stock of them. They indicate firmly that a new ideology, a new spiritual meaning, now grips the souls of those living around you, most prominently, academics, journalists, corporate leaders, lawyers, and government bureaucrats.

His personal declaration of sin committed against identity politics is worthy of Rubashov’s final apology in Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, a 1941 novel widely regarded as one of the truly definitive literary investigations of communist totalitarianism. Rubashov was imprisoned for counterrevolutionary political crimes he allegedly committed against the communist regime. Although we are never told it’s the Soviet Union, the similarities of Rubashov’s interrogation and trial replicate the Stalinist era. However, this old Bolshevik isn’t actually guilty of what he has been accused of. His famous last confession is completely false, and yet it is not simply a lie. He has convinced himself that he owes such an apology to the regime to which he has dedicated his life. In the end, Rubashov cannot disbelieve in the communist regime because of its moral hold on his soul, even though it will execute him for crimes he has not committed against it.

McNeil, too, was finally unable to disbelieve in progressive egalitarian ideology which has now morphed into a nearly totalitarian conception of race and identity. McNeil appended to his execution an apology for objectively offending against the expanding list of identity politics’ crimes.  All of this for quoting another person’s words—what neither he nor any sane American until 3 minutes ago believed to be a racist act. When such events occur, we must take stock of them. They indicate firmly that a new ideology, a new spiritual meaning, now grips the souls of those living around you, most prominently, academics, journalists, corporate leaders, lawyers, and government bureaucrats. That these souls are those of our elites, with outsized capabilities of persuasion (or rather indoctrination) and its accompanying cudgel of shame and ostracism, makes our situation that much worse.

McNeil’s putative crimes were only the latest iteration of an ideological putsch that builds on a profoundly errant anthropology, which, in turn, constructs a regime that shapes a world against the human person, family, and community. That anthropology posits that we are projections of race and gender and that we measure everything accordingly. Dismissed is the noble, truly liberal understanding that we are beings of reason, soul, and conscience, and that we are designed to know the truth about ourselves. Consider Thomas Chatterton Williams’s questions in Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race: “What does one get in return for subordinating one’s racial or ethnic identity? What is big and powerful enough to fill the identity hole left by the excision of race?” And the answer Williams gives is freedom. But freedom, what is it? What could it possibly mean in the maelstrom of identity politics? Williams looks to James Baldwin who observed in The Fire Next Time:

For the sake of one’s children . . . one must be careful not to take refuge in any delusion—and the value placed on the color of skin is always and everywhere and forever a delusion. I know that what I am asking is impossible. But in our time, as in every time, the impossible is the least that one can demand.

Such freedom is surely not what denizens of identity politics can stand or even contemplate. Rather than moving beyond race to ask themselves what it means to be a human person, they have decided to make race every bit as central to the human person in a manner that an old-line segregationist would understand and appreciate.

Evidence: Ibram Kendi’s basic argument in How to be an Antiracist asserts that one is either racist or antiracist, the latter being a constant struggle for racial equality of outcome against a society filled with racism. Here is the antiracist logic that supports McNeil’s termination: America is suffused with racism, it envelopes minorities, and to even refer to racist terms is to further bury minorities in bigoted ground. Kendi is the leading voice on race, more specifically, anti-racism in America. Consider his definitions.

Racist: One who is supporting a racist policy through their actions or inaction or expressing a racist idea.

Antiracist: One who is supporting an antiracist policy through their actions or expressing an antiracist idea.

Inaction makes one a racist, and falling under that umbrella is the belief in a color-blind society. Kendi’s Carl Schmitt-like pronouncement that you are either a racist or an anti-racist can finally leave no room for being color blind because it “fails to see racism and falls into racist passivity.” There’s also no such thing as a “not-racist.” Why? “It is a claim that signifies neutrality: “I am not a racist, but neither am I aggressively against racism,”” Kendi observes. And we are told “there is no neutrality in the racism struggle.” There is no room for inaction or passivity in the antiracist. To be an antiracist requires enlisting in its crusade by becoming a fulltime ideologue.

But such sheep and goats declarations while mesmerizing to some are hardly new and remain the consistent thread of totalitarian politics: friend versus enemy (Schmitt) or bourgeoisie versus proletariat (Marx). Kendi asserts a racial category of political war-making that will have to be completed before an antiracist future can be ushered into existence. Consider an exhortation from Lenin to get a sense of what Kendi is really doing:

At the root of Communist morality lies the struggle for the consolidation, for the completion, of Communism. Therefore, from the point of view of Communist morality, only those acts are moral which contribute to the building up of a new Communist society.

Compare with Kendi:

The only remedy to resist racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.

This will transform the American political order into a profoundly illiberal one defined by constant conflict. We will be on war-footing.

Kendi knows his Lenin, no?

That struggle requires racial equity—the new buzzword—or equality of result and achievement for all racial groups. It is a constant and never-ending struggle requiring a total commitment of the state to total racial equality. Such equity can be achieved by present and future discrimination against whites, Asian Americans, or any group holding disproportionate wealth, property, professional attainment, educational status, and other markers of success compared to other racial groups. Not considered by the antiracist mind is that disparities in no way equal racism, as Thomas Sowell argued in Discrimination and Disparities (2018). Individual freedom under the rule of law can and will go to hell.

Thus we see a rationale for the Biden administration’s insistence that it will end discrimination against Asian Americans, while at the same time dropping the Department of Justice lawsuit against Yale University for purportedly discriminating against Asian American applicants. Asian Americans already constitute, though, an outsized portion of the student population at Yale relative to their percentage of the broader population. As Kendi would affirm in this context: present discrimination is warranted against Asian Americans because other minority groups have not achieved equity at Yale. Alas, the Biden administration is anti-racist in Kendi’s sense.

Kendi et al., have stated their terms of opposition to the American constitution which as a not-racist document, must be racist. It will have to be either buried or transformed. The liberties and limits of our constitutional order—individual freedom, free markets, the rule of law, religious freedom, civil society, and family—must be radically diminished and, again, transformed in the service of racial equality of result.  Neutrality regarding the legal organization of family, education, property, public order, religion, among other matters, isn’t possible. Ultimately, Kendi dictates to us a closed society of racialized socialism. 

Will America cross over to antiracism and all its works?  I wish the answer were unequivocally no. But those who hold real power in America have joined the antiracist cause with thoughtless abandon.

Reader Discussion

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.

on February 12, 2021 at 10:11:27 am

Equity is the wrong word because it means fair and impartial. It is veiled communism expressed as anti racism and equal outcomes. A totally obvious attack on the first amendment: Freedom of Speech and Assembly which entails the right to at least privately socially discriminate. This stuff has been at work the past 50 years enabled and assisted through some charitable foundations assisted by taxpayer money through government bureaucracies.

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George Goodwine
on February 12, 2021 at 11:59:44 am

My next Petition on Change.org: Require every executive and employee of the CRT supporting Open Society Foundations to prove they have actually read Karl Popper's "Open Society and its Enemies" and understood (perhaps require a 5 page book report) Yes, yes, I've read that George Soros took Popper's LSE course many moons ago, but it is quite clear that no one at the organization has read and/or understood Popper's work.

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Kurtis Fechtmeyer
on February 12, 2021 at 14:53:44 pm

You might want to visit Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking Glass," where Humpty Dumpty explains to Alice:
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master—that's all."

We're truly into "Though the Looking Glass" territory.

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Forbes
on February 12, 2021 at 10:32:56 am
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Douglas B. Rasmussen
on February 12, 2021 at 14:27:37 pm

Careful use of language is needed if communications between individuals are going to be meaningful. I have come across antisemitism couched in terms of criticising Israel, even when it is plain in the context that the criticism of Israel is only a veil for hiding antisemitism. I see outrage at Black Lives Matter protests couched in terms of moral equivalence of the outrage at inciting a mob to go and hang the Vice President.

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Curious
on February 12, 2021 at 12:29:07 pm

Hmmm, LOOKS LIKE ANTI-RACISM IS CONTAGIOUS:

"Behind the attacks on American universities - led by aging white male intellectuals - lie the tensions in a society where power appears to be up for grabs...But the emergence of young intellectuals...has fueled the assault on what Mr. Fassin calls the 'American boogeyman.' 'That’s what has turned things upside down,’ he said. 'They’re not just the objects we speak of, but they’re also the subjects who are talking'....It’s time to stop pretending that some nice language...is enough to confront a system riddled with racist assumptions or to address the real harms done every day in the name of American values." ( https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2021/02/looks-like-anti-racism-is-contagious and https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/magazine/classics-greece-rome-whiteness.html )

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Anthony
on February 12, 2021 at 12:34:23 pm

Hmmm, LOOKS LIKE ANTI-RACISM IS CONTAGIOUS:

"Behind the attacks on American universities - led by aging white male intellectuals - lie the tensions in a society where power appears to be up for grabs...But the emergence of young intellectuals...has fueled the assault on what Mr. Fassin calls the 'American boogeyman.' 'That’s what has turned things upside down,’ he said. 'They’re not just the objects we speak of, but they’re also the subjects who are talking'....It’s time to stop pretending that some nice language...is enough to confront a system riddled with racist assumptions or to address the real harms done every day in the name of American values." https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/mazagine/classics-greece-rome-whiteness.html

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Anthony
on February 12, 2021 at 14:45:57 pm

We're well past Animal Farm and 1984, and on to Harrison Bergeron. Perhaps the heirs of Fahrenheit 451 have already burned those books.

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Forbes
on February 17, 2021 at 13:10:38 pm

Yep. At my husband's work, they are withdrawing hard-earned promotions to level N from ethnic groups A, B, and D, because they are shy on numbers from ethnic group C in level N. There are no Cs in level M to promote into N, because they accelerated the promotion of all possible Cs from M into N to meet diversity targets the last three years.

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Tamsin
on February 12, 2021 at 15:07:32 pm

These racial word-games are all the diabolical work of the diabolism of language abuse. (Read Josef Pieper's "The Abuse of Language" to understand better what I mean.) Further, these diabolical word games are deployed as acts of racism, greed and power-seeking by greedy, power-seeking, money-chasing race-hustlers, like Kendi, who got where they are through the nation's systemic scam of "free rides for blacks" in education and employment and its systemic policy of ''free stuff for blacks," including, again like Kendi, free, generous grants of unwarranted public and institutional credibility for their books, lectures and speeches, most of which are but acts of self-promotion for advancing their self-enriching ideas for blacks to receive even more free rides and free stuff, all to be paid for at the great expense and unjust suffering of working, middle class whites, who, truly, are "not racist" and are in no way racists and never have been.

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Paladin
on February 12, 2021 at 17:37:52 pm

The progressive left is a shape shifting cameleon, ready to suit the prevailing right thoughts. After thirty five years, I returned to the university three weeks after the 9-11 attack and the professors wanted to talk about the error of Presdient Bush's "you're either with us or you're with them" response. The argument was that Bush's theory ignored the middle who may in fact want nothing to do with either side. They just wanted to be left alone. The progs like Kendi and the children who inhabit the Biden team don't want to leave anyone alone. Let's hope the foul odors they emit will dissipate in the wind.

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Mike Bond
on February 12, 2021 at 17:46:49 pm

Richard:

Well said! You may wish to confer with Michael Greve, whom, (as I recall), employed the term "consociational" to describe what in effect will be the end result of this present striving for "equity", i.e., that state of economic, social, governmental, cultural and, dare I suggest another implausible objective, intellectual statistical parity equivalent to the groups demographic share.
It is curious to note that those "consociational" polities, Indonesia, Phillipines (to a lesser extent), and certain African polities, arrived at such a solution BECAUSE they were historically fragmented, segregated and were unable to achieve a meliorating posture.
Note well, how our present proponents of "equity" / consociationalism" are DEMANDING that a once unified (by and large) populace, both culturally and philosophically (our 'melting Pot") now devolve into racially, ethnically, culturally and sexually / *genderally* (Oops) distinct subgroups each seeking and BY RIGHT compelling their share of the power, prestige and affluence of this once sensibly organized polity.
It is not necessary to make note to the well read observer that these "consociational" polities are either failed or neraly failed polities, rife with continued envy, dissatisfaction, ethnic hatred or mistrust, at times bordering on terrorism or outright hostilities.
Yet, this is what our "mal-educated" intelligentsia and their historically ignorant, deluded followers in the media and the Democrat Party wish to force upon the American Republic and its rather passive citizenry.
I wonder when the urge for statistical parity will encompass professional sports as it has policing, education, politics as evidenced by the pride in which Sleepy Joe's Administration heralds the latest "tranny", gay, female or other special type placed in positions of authority over the recalcitrant deplorable mass of commoners.

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gabe
on February 13, 2021 at 01:31:26 am

In the 15th century, during the Ming period in China, physicians used small ivory dolls when treating female patients. The woman would point to part of the doll that corresponded with her own symptoms, and the physician would make diagnostic and treatment decisions without compromising the modesty of the patient. One can imagine that, whatever benefit this procedure had with regard to social mores, something was given up with regard to diagnostic accuracy. We appear to take a similar approach to discussing racism in America.

Mr. Reinsch's fine essay refers to a "racial slur" but the specifics of the matter are not mentioned. One might naturally assume that the offending word was "svraka," which of course is the Croatian word for magpie, but this would be an error. When we pursue the details of Donald McNeil's alleged offense, we find that the offending term was the "N-word." This is sometimes also spelled "n----r," or "n*****." It is usually pronounced, if at all, as if it were spelled "nigger," which in fact was the way the word was spelled up until the end of the 20th Century. It is a corruption of the Spanish word "negro," possibly influenced by a Cajun intermediate such as "neggra." But we don't discuss the actual word; we point to bowdlerized euphemisms, much as medieval Chinese women pointed to ivory dolls, and for much the same reason.

As a result, we end up talking not about the actual subject, but about talking about the actual subject. We get into a potentially infinite regression of talking about the way the last person who spoke or wrote about the topic did so. As an example, this comment is a comment about the way Mr. Reinsch talks about the subject, and if someone were to respond to this comment in high dudgeon for using that...that...word, that would also be a comment about the comment rather than about the underlying subject. It would be like the Chinese physicians becoming more concerned about defects in the doll, rather than in the patient who attempts to use the doll as a surrogate.

The result of this process is that each iteration in this potentially infinite series of remarks about comments about statements about opinions about remarks about...etc. is its own invitation to derail the conversation away from the merits and into the Kafka trap and name calling that represents the apogee of racialist discourse.

The "N-word," or "nigger" is, of course, insulting and often hostile. it is avoided in common discourse for the same reasons that well-mannered and decent people refrain from using the ruder slang that refers to women. However, once the word is used, and the discussion becomes a meta-discussion about the word rather than the context, it serves a different purpose. It signals to the racialist-anti-racist-racist that there is still enough aversion to being labeled racist that ridiculous claims and demands can be offered without serious contention. It serves to hide the fact that the historical injustices of racism are being dumbed down, and in fact cheapened, to benefit a new generation of grievance mongers. It serves the fantasies of wealthy affluent Selma re-enactors who mistake virtue theater for the actual convictions and sacrifices of people like James Baldwin and, come to think of it, Charlston Heston. Being offended by the use of a word regardless of context or purpose is an indulgence in silliness and indicates a lack of seriousness that self- righteousness outrage cannot remedy.

There is of course something phony about the obsessive focus on grievance archaeology, on racialist struggle sessions, and on zero tolerance for not only insulting words, but unrelated words that sound like them. It diverts the focus from actual attitudes about race, and equality, and justice to a meta-discussion regarding style rather than substance. It keeps the focus on emotions rather than justice and misunderstood minutiae rather than the much more substantial matter of how people treat each other in their everyday lives. It is at base cynical, negative and destructive and ultimately seeks nothing more than ruins to rule over.

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z9z99
on February 13, 2021 at 14:10:35 pm

Great comment! Thank you for taking the time and effort to write it. When political correctness appeared on the scene in the 1990's, we acquiesced to it out of politeness, not realizing that it would morph into the irrational monster that we are facing today.

Sometime in the last few years I came across a quotation to the effect of "don't be offensive to others and don't be too easily offended". I have had trouble discovering the correct original author (perhaps Robert Heinlein, H. L. Menken, or some other reasonably well known author?) If this rings a bell for anyone, I would welcome a pointer to that source.

I was thinking of creating a reply with a lot of non-N word words ending in "er" or "ger", but then I decided that would be childish and might offend someone.

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R2L
on February 13, 2021 at 14:45:36 pm

We should be too big to take offense and too noble to give it. - Abraham Lincoln (the quoting of whom may be racist)

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z9z99
on February 14, 2021 at 19:08:09 pm

I recall a professor of mine at the University of Georgia, in the late 1970s, being startled to find that a black student of his took offense to the professor's use of the word "niggardly." He was mostly astounded that a person of such low literacy could have been admitted to the University! The good man is deceased, now. Lucky guy.

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Kayball
on February 15, 2021 at 09:37:46 am

“Being offended by the use of a word regardless of context or purpose is an indulgence in silliness and indicates a lack of seriousness that self- righteousness outrage cannot remedy.”

True, because “As nouns the difference between context and essence, is that context is the surroundings, circumstances, environment, background or settings that determine, specify, or clarify the meaning of an event or other occurrence while essence is (senseid)the inherent nature of a thing or idea.”

The failure to determine, specify or clarify the meaning of an event or other occurrence in relationship to essence, will serve as a divergence not a convergence, undermining the very essence of the inherent nature of a thing or idea.

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N.D.
on February 15, 2021 at 16:15:53 pm

The antidote to antiracism is to be found here, especially Loury's condemnation of "structural racism" for the vacuity that it is.

https://quillette.com/2021/02/10/unspeakable-truths-about-racial-inequality-in-america/

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QET
on February 16, 2021 at 21:07:49 pm

Frankly, I'm appalled at the first paragraph of this article. How can you publish something so blatantly one-sided? The author's description of The New York Times is not only inaccurate but reprehensible. Shouldn't the reading materials provided in this newsletter remain neutral and thought-provoking, not obtuse and anger-provoking?

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Meegan Moszynski
on February 17, 2021 at 15:52:02 pm

Thank you. I feel as though most readers are jumping on this bandwagon without full understanding of the facts.

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Jane
on February 23, 2021 at 18:51:03 pm

Same reaction here. And I'm appalled that Liberty Fund would support this type of writing. They publish such great scholarly books.

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Chris
on February 17, 2021 at 15:49:52 pm

McNeil was also quoted, per a contemporaneous journal entry by a student on the field trip, recently confirmed by two other students, as saying: “It’s frustrating, because Black Americans keep blaming the system, but racism is over, there’s nothing against them anymore—they can get out of the ghetto if they want to.” Leaving this out of the discussion, as well as the fact that students reported that he *repeatedly* used racist and sexist language, is disingenuous at best. Hyperbole doesn't help your argument, Mr. Reinsch.

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Jane
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