Thursday, January 14, 2016

Contra deBoer: Antiracist

I'm continuing with an analysis of Fredrik deBoer's left manifesto for 2016 (start here). My second piece was "Anti-capitalist". Now we look at his "Antiracist."

Fredrik de Boer's "functioning, healthy left political movement would recognize that racial discrimination is a unique form of injustice that has been ever-present in modern society." This is because racism is both "material oppression and emotional insult", and it arises out of the modern world's "history of the domination of non-white races by white races." So racism is not merely a function of economic inequality but a "unique and uniquely pernicious phenomenon". But "combating racism must begin with addressing economic inequality and material injustice." Overall, the new left movement would "assertively pursue a society of equal rights, equal power, and equal dignity of all races."

So if you think that racism is a special injustice, and if you think that the solution begins, initially, with fighting inequality and material injustice, then you are all set up to use government force to remedy the situation.

But I don't think so. I don't think that racial discrimination is "unique" or that it is peculiar to modern society. History, according to Theodor Adorno, is a disaster, and that disaster has a lot to do with the appetite for hegemony and domination in ruling classes and revolutionaries bucking for promotion to the ruling class. Conquest slavery was ubiquitous in the ancient world, and a thousand years ago the Vikings would sail up the rivers of England in the fall. They would kill the men, seize the harvest, and sell the women and children in the biggest slave market in northwest Europe, Dublin. Human groups have always discriminated against the "other," whether the other is the tribe next door or the Muslims in a no-go ghetto. Moreover, humans have also tended to prefer white to dark skin color. No doubt there is a class thing here: dark means someone that has to work in the sun. And of course the Circassian slaves (they have their own Wikipedia entry) were highly prized in the harems of the Middle East because of their whiteness.

The particular indictment of modern capitalism, of course, plantation slavery. It stand to reason, of course, that when you are buying slaves to work your highly profitable sugar or cotton plantation -- and you are using West Africans because by trial and error the slave masters discovered their immunity to malaria -- you need to find a way to justify the way you brutally exploit your slaves to help you sleep at night. What better than to classify the West Africans as a lesser race that can't deal with freedom and can't be responsible free men and women? And then when you lose a civil war to the northerners you bridle at the idea that your former slaves could in any way be your equal, let alone lord it over you in league with evil Republican carpetbaggers and scalawags. And the worst thing is that under capitalism, it pays employers to hire blacks who are willing to work for less than a white man. So you write Jim Crow laws and Davis-Bacon acts to make sure that doesn't happen. And the result? Your Southern United States stays poor and backward and morally depraved, and the blacks you oppressed migrate to the north. The fact is that only now are African Americans returning that once sterile and bare land, now manured, husbanded and tilled with excellent endeavour of good Republican supply-side economics. Because that's where the jobs are.

Of course, if you have already decided that racism is uniquely evil, then all else follows. But suppose you end up creating ill will between different groups in society. After all, nobody thinks they are uniquely evil, and they tend to object strongly when somebody marginalizes them as evil. I'd say, for instance, that left politics is uniquely evil, as shown by the man-made famine in the Ukraine and the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. But try getting your lefty friend to agree to such a proposition. So when you start on the "uniquely evil" course you are creating divisions and conflict in society. And who knows where that might lead? It might lead to your glorious revolution being reversed by the reactionaries.

But here is yet another problem. When the educated elite of creative left activists has declared a group of humans as uniquely oppressed victims, and enacted not just non-discrimination laws but positive discrimination in affirmative action and "diversity" and a culture of offense, what does this do to the recipients of this rage for justice? I argue that it makes the recipients into a dysfunctional culture that cannot succeed in society without special privilege. I call it the "little darling" problem. And I mean problem, for the little darlings.

Back in the old days, racism was unexceptionable; today it is scandalous, and the left has done its part to make it so. But when do we declare victory? After every last racist has been hunted down and named and shamed and banished from progressive society?

And is racism a unique evil? That's the $64,000 question. What do you think?

Next up: "Feminist."

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