Rumors of an incident in my hometown spread like a wildfire this week. Someone came out on social media with a story from a black friend who claimed that she was (or was almost) denied service at an appliance repair shop. While no further details were provided, much less a reason for the alleged (non-)refusal, the assumption was that the color of the customer’s skin had something to do with it.
Within days the usual suspects were at it on Facebook, admonishing my sleepy little New England town about its systemic racism and notable lack of diversity. The name of the business wasn’t revealed, but half the town figured it out anyway. Nobody asked its owner any questions, and to my knowledge, neither did he come forward to set the record straight.
While none of the above amounts to a novel phenomenon — after all, such events seem to be a daily occurrence in our Republic at the moment — it remains very instructive in various ways.
First, it is astonishing how much is deduced from so little information. Observing this case factually (if a “case” we can call it), there was or was no offense committed. Somebody did or did not refuse a black person service. And there were or were no racist motives on the part of the perpetrator or non-perpetrator. But the inference is made regardless.
Secondly, it would be bad enough if, short of any cross-examination, the blame were laid at the feet of the business owner alone. Instead, the entire town is made to be complicit. The Social Justice Warriors dusted off their Critical Race Theory books and brought out all the familiar buzzwords: “white privilege”, “systemic racism”, “flawed society”, etc.
Thirdly, it seems that the same local names are jumping into action each and every time the topic of race comes up. Using Facebook, Twitter and other online platforms as an amplifier, these folks may find a way to make themselves heard and reach a lot of people. But it’s questionable whether theirs are majority positions on the matter.
Please hold off on pushing that fatwa button, but I’m skeptical about the entire affair, including its frenzied aftermath. I wasn’t born yesterday. It’s entirely possible there are a few really bad apples in what is otherwise a friendly town filled mostly with bleeding-heart liberals. After all, there’s no denying our country has a long history of racism which pervades even to this day.
However, it’s equally possible the charges were made up out of whole cloth by somebody wanting to get attention. Or the result of a misunderstanding, read in the worst possible light by someone who was in reality merely on the receiving end of an innocuous comment. The never-abating flow of “hate crime hoaxes” suggests as much.
The fact that this term exists today is instructive in and of itself. It’s becoming clear that there exists now a whole cohort of people of color determined to draw the most negative conclusions from any interaction with whites, be it an off-hand remark or gesture or even a mere smile. That is, if they didn’t pull a Jussie Smollett on us and make the “incident” up altogether.
Such people obviously get their cue from the Critical Race Theory peddlers in academia and now in the wider public sphere, who have been pushing on America the idea that the blame for any racism out there lies not at the feet of the individual racists, but at those of the country as a collective. There are gains to be had from these hoaxes, in the form of media attention and public sympathy. And a good chunk of the public no longer requires evidence anyway.
Critical Race Theory posits that people who deny its premises do so only because they, too, are part of a larger system which is intrinsically racist and hierarchical. We are all nodes on the same societal network — an invisible power grid, if you will — and not even aware of our respective positions in its hierarchy. If we deny we’re racist, that’s actually proof of our racism, the argument goes. We’re just not aware of it. Only the Woke are.
This is a tautological and irrational line of argument which decent and reasonable people should reject out of hand. Either racism demonstratively exists as a set of attitudes held by one group of people towards another, or CRT is, in the words of Andrew Sullivan, “unfalsifiable postmodern claptrap.” In the latter case, it can never be disproven, much less eradicated.
Another tenet of CRT is its demand for complete “equity” between the races — newspeak for “equality of outcome”. This, too, is a tautological sleight of hand which will ensure that its work will never be done. For, much like Marxism, injustice is deemed to exist and society is deemed in need of transformation so long as there’s one black person out there who doesn’t make a six-figure salary and own a 4-bedroom house in a tony suburb. It wouldn’t matter if we were 99% there, because there would still exist a remaining 1% “proving” CRT’s thesis.
In other words, since completely eliminating racial inequities is an utter fantasy, such inequities will provide CRT with a raison d’être until the end of days. In the meantime, its attempts to eradicate them will make us all more miserable.
Perhaps more important is that the demand for equity negates any culpability on the part of blacks for their own plight. The hostility to academic excellence within wide swathes of the black population, the crime-ridden inner cities, the fatherless homes — none of these social problems are ever mentioned, let alone acknowledged, by the Social Justice Warriors. The reason is that the notion of black agency is antithetical to CRT’s victimhood narrative.
Another matter never brought up is the fact that the federal government commenced an ambitious program in the 1960s, dubbed the Great Society, to redress the socio-economic struggles among African-Americans. Now in their fifth decade of existence, Great Society policies are the largest driver of our federal debt, but few on the Left would pause to reflect on what effects they have had on black communities.
In the wake of the Great Society’s implementation throughout the 1960s the out-of-wedlock birth rate among blacks, which had been creeping up steadily from around 15% in 1940 to 24% in 1963, exploded to over 70% in the mid-1990s, never to recede to previous levels. Is it at all possible that the lavish welfare programs enacted in the 60s, combined with the emergence of left-wing ideas and attitudes hostile towards the bourgeois ideals, were at the root of this exponential increase?
To blame the poor socio-economic outcomes among blacks in the United States solely on whites and on an invisible system of white privilege is to deny all the aforementioned facts. It turns a multi-faceted, complex problem into a one-dimensional issue which would dissolve into thin air if only whites would just get with the program.
Moreover, the petulant whining doesn’t jive with reality, which is that, even with their struggles, blacks in the U.S. today are among the most fortunate human beings in all of human history. Every relevant metric — life expectancy, household income, purchasing power, educational achievement, political freedom, freedom from fear and war, and yes, interracial relations too — has moved in the right direction in the past hundred years. Some of them at an exponential pace.
The problem, of course, is that none of the Social Justice Warriors ever open up a history book. And so, their observations on our society being devoid of any historical context, they would be glad indeed to flush our constitutional system of government and capitalist economy down the toilet just because these cannot bring us perfect “equity”. What should supplant them, however, is never made clear.
A related problem is that our unprecedented wealth has lulled us to sleep, and that we have come to take it for granted. Most of us have never had to fight any wars or walk two miles barefoot to get a jug of water, and as a result we’ve come to think that our petty inconveniences matter in the grand scheme of things.
The problem with moral panics such as the one in my hometown is that those on the receiving end of the vitriol — decent, law-abiding whites who don’t hold grudges towards anybody, regardless of skin color — get more cynical about the issue of race along the way. The result may be more racism instead of less, and even violent reprisals if things get out of hand again as they did in 2020.
Critical Race Theory’s assumptions are wholly irrational, and they are tearing us apart. Whatever problems we are facing, they require a course correction at most, not for us to dismantle the entire ship. To those in my town and in the rest of the country I would say: Let’s stop this radical nonsense in its tracks. For if we don’t, we will all suffer for it in the end.