I was reading through Jim Kalb’s essays and I stumbled on this Gem. I find it interesting that many of the thoughts that I came to on this subject ended up as poorly articulated versions of his. Ideas are not arbitrary. Coherent sets of ideas come in relations, given the structure and needs of the external and internal world, and intellectual the tracts we, as Weber would say, get switched on. For every world-perspective that is dominant, there are an indefinite set of unrealized but immediately viable idea-systems, any of which, in the long run, might either be fecundus or represent a cultural evolutionary cul-de-sac. I guess we will find out about this one:
Tue, 05/09/2006 – 4:34pm — Jim Kalb
The following essay appeared in the April 2000 issue of Pinc, and has also in large part been published in Danish. It may be of some interest because general discussions of anti-racism as an outlook and phenomenon are so exceedingly rare, given the importance of the subject.
“Racism is the worst of sins, the gravest of public dangers, the most repellent of spiritual disorders. Any taint of racism soils and discredits in all respects.”
Some such view is fundamental to public life today. The emphatic opposition to racism that is now obligatory gives the “race card” extraordinary potency. If you are not part of the solution then simply by living your life from day to day you are participating in “institutional racism.”
The nature of anti-racism is rarely discussed analytically, so it appears to be less a matter of doctrine than feeling and general orientation. Nonetheless, as a view that dominates public policy it has definite content. As such, it holds that there is a definite thing called “racism,” backed by power and constituted by contempt and hatred for those who differ, but for which race relations would be harmonious if indeed differences were noted at all.
Anti-racism is not at all middle-of-the-road, although resistance to it is thought extremist. Its principle is not live-and-let-live but eradication of the universal practice of ordering life by reference to feelings of extended kinship. On the colorblind reading of civil rights law that is the most conservative view now tolerated, it is illegal to treat ethnicity as relevant to social relations that matter. More advanced readings of the law, that recognize the continuing power of ethnic ties, call for government to equalize advantages by suppressing ethnicity in the case of whites and enhancing it for others. It is simply assumed that government can carry out such a program fairly and effectively and that men will accept it indefinitely.
All over the world, anti-racism is enforced by anti-discrimination laws and prohibitions on hate speech and hate crimes. Human rights treaties make anti-racism part of the law of nations, and it has forced white South Africans to give up a position that once seemed impregnable. Respectable French intellectuals would rather abandon French particularity than seem to ally themselves with Le Pen. British TV is now as multiracial as American, and there have been serious official proposals there to make private racial comments criminal.
Unparalleled evil though it is thought to be, racism is seen everywhere, whether there is evidence for it or not. As long as some groups are collectively unequal to others, the world is racist, and the harder it is to find an explanation that can be publicly accepted, the more fundamental and pervasive racism must be. Accusations of racism always stick, at least a little, and no matter how reckless or even cynical never hurt the accuser. Even false accusations can be valuable, because they draw attention to important issues.
In current practice, anti-racism is aimed at whites. In their case, racism includes not only hatred and abuse, but any distrust of others, any special concern or preference for whites, any recognition of whites as a people. Anti-racism also imposes on whites an obligation to sacrifice their interests to those of nonwhites. If a white does something at odds with black interests or desires, for example if he fails sufficiently to favor “affirmative action,” he is racist or at best insensitive. In contrast, public statements by blacks can be revoltingly bigoted without consequence.
Permitting to some what is forbidden others seems to relativize racism and thus deny that it is ultimate pathological evil. It also suggests that anti-racism draws support from anti-white bigotry. The suggestion is correct.
While many think “anti-white bigotry” a paradox, elite contempt for nonelite whites is simply the contempt of an ascendant group for a group it has superseded and intends to keep subordinate. Most members of our ruling elites are white, but they identify themselves by ideology and class rather than race, and their rejection of racial identification is fundamental to their claim to power. By attacking whites as a group they identify themselves with the principle of rule now ascendant. Whites are thus not immune to racial targeting. In the case of immigration and affirmative action governing elites routinely override lopsided popular majorities that would protect whites from adverse treatment as whites.
Although bigotry is thus a factor, anti-racism is not at bottom an attack on whites. The differing treatment of whites and others has a deeper and more principled explanation. As a governing philosophy, anti-racism must be practical as well as idealistic; it values consistency, but its overriding goal is abolition of racial hierarchy. It therefore permits anything, including elite and minority bigotry, that weakens the position of dominant ethnicities. Fire must be fought with fire; the power of ethnicity is such that only the combined power of class, ethnicity and the state can neutralize it. The function of multiculturalism is to ease the tension between idealism and practicality by portraying differing treatment as an aspect of equality. Its incoherence is thought a moderate price to pay toward that end.
In spite of apparent contradictions, anti-racism can be construed as a reasonably principled attack on the things that make ethnicity a material factor in social life. Multiculturalism and other aspects of anti-racist practice that seem to emphasize the importance of ethnicity do not refute that view. Such things weaken the strong and strengthen the weak, so that ethnic dominance becomes impossible and ethnicity useless as principle of social order. The advantage of such an understanding of anti-racism is that it is how its adherents understand it. They believe in the abolition of distinctions, and their views should be understood consistently unless some decisive objection appears….