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above: Nikole Hannah-Jones of The New York Times (photo by Alice Vergueiro/Abraji/Wikimedia Commons)

Editorials

The Left Plays the Racism Game by Its Own Rules

Nikole Hannah-Jones of The New York Times’ “1619 Project” has explained on Twitter—which apparently doesn’t mind communicating her racist views as long as they are left-wing—why the majority of Cuban-Americans in Florida voted for Trump. It seems, according to Hannah-Jones, that the term Latino is a “contrived ethnic category” that throws together white Spaniards from Cuba with nonwhite Puerto Ricans and Central Americans. These “Latinos” are mostly groups with little in common, and so we err grievously when we treat white Cubans, who tend to vote for Republicans, with the supposedly more authentic Mestizo populations that properly support the political left.

Complicating the matter even more, according to Hannah-Jones, the Cubanos, that is, white American citizens whose ancestors came from the island of Cuba, delight in authoritarian leaders and are therefore attracted to the fascist persona of Donald Trump. Perhaps Marco Rubio keeps a picture of General Franco on his wall, which he salutes after returning from the Falangist rallies sponsored by the Republican National Committee. 

Hannah-Jones’ rant illustrates a now-prevalent double standard. The left may practice racism as well as terrorism, providing that whites or dissident racial minorities, like black policemen, are targeted. Whether we are speaking about Hannah-Jones or Black Lives Matter (BLM), we are encountering a far more toxic and open racism than one is likely to find anywhere else. And yet those who trade in this product are lavished with honors, including professorships at prestigious universities and high-paying positions in the media empire. Even more remarkable, most whites do not seem to care about being punching bags for anti-white racists, or at least they pretend not to notice when they are being demeaned.

This takes a particularly weird form in what styles itself as the conservative movement, which is used to engaging in non-stop virtue signaling. The conservative goody-two-shoes performance has sometimes involved denouncing, among others, Donald Trump and the populist right as “racist” and “xenophobic.” For example, in a pre-election symposium at The American Conservative, in which editors and contributors to that magazine were giving their reasons for their choice of presidential candidate, the charge of racial insensitivity figured large among some self-described conservatives. It seems the Trump-scorning “conservatives” among those polled expected their presidential candidate to be so squeaky clean and politically correct that even their leftist friends would applaud his impeccable anti-racist credentials. Our conservative xenophiles and anti-racists obviously crave social respectability. Or they are living in an alternative reality in which no one is supposed to notice ethnic differences or such unpalatable facts as who wanders into this country and claims asylum and eventually citizenship without legal authorization.

What is perhaps most unsettling about the acceptance of this double standard, in which intersectional blacks and Latinos are free to push around white people with utter abandon, is how those targeted respond. Instead of demanding they be treated with dignity, whites run to express support for BLM and even sponsor lectures and symposia that drag their own race through the mud. Meanwhile, authorized conservatives come running to help marginalize those to their right who their leftist talking partners identify as “racists.” 

This may be why Fox News has stiff-armed members of the Old Right but routinely trots out its stable of leftists in good standing to offer their conventional leftist views. This attitude may also explain why Fox News foisted implausible voter polls on its confused viewers in the months before the election showing Trump 10 percentage points or more behind Biden. Anchors Bret Baier, Chris Wallace, Martha MacCallum, and their colleagues may well have known these polls came from Democratic pollsters and were weapons in a political war. But, like their Democratic rival channels, they stood behind them obstinately and kept throwing up wildly inaccurate polling data that Trump supporters were right to question. When Wallace presumptuously announced at high noon on Nov. 7 that Biden is our new president-elect, he repeated the warning of Mitt Romney that Trump should say nothing “inflammatory” about the media-declared outcome of the election. Among the statements that were to be avoided was anything suggesting that something untoward had occurred during the vote counting in several large cities. 

Since I mentioned racists and anti-racists, let me also express a judgment that I have stated before. In my considered view, white nationalists are a clumsy imitation of black nationalists and, to the extent that they have thrown together a movement, it is not likely to go anywhere. The most obvious reason is that hatred of whites is more popular among whites than anything white nationalists are selling. What might be more useful than grandstanding about whiteness is to address pathological white behavior.

But let me also warn the conservative movement (whether it will listen or not) against becoming hysterically self-defensive when accused of white racism. We play into the hands of our political enemies by trying to prove we are not what they say we are. Since the criteria of white racism fluctuates in accordance with the left’s ever-evolving agenda, it is almost impossible for the accused to disprove the charge once leveled. It is therefore best not to try to defend oneself in a situation in which one has been pre-condemned. Moreover, at a time when the hatred of whites is raging throughout our media, educational institutions, and entertainment industry, it is utterly irresponsible to pretend that white racism is the major problem besetting Western countries. It is white self-hatred and the unleashing of anti-white racism, often by whites themselves, which constitutes the far more urgent problem. Tirades against white nationalism may be a diversion from the recognition of this more dangerous reality.

1220-EDITORIALS-2_copyHaving made these pedestrian points, let me note a particularly grotesque example of Conservative Inc. virtue signaling that recently came to my attention. In a short sermon on The Federalist website on why “nothing about the West is inherently white,” someone who is described as a “lecturer in Ancient Greek at the University of Oxford” puts forth the following anti-alt-right opinions. The author, Spencer Klavan, son of The Daily Wire columnist Andrew Klavan, assures us that contrary to the views of “Alt-right apologists Richard Spencer and Pat Buchanan,” both of whom “peddled this warped understanding of the West, which motivated fatal violence two weeks ago in Charlottesville,”  we should not think of Western civilization as being white. Just because it “developed largely among light-skinned Anglo-Europeans,” Western identity is not “reducible to ‘blood and soil’—to whiteness.” 

The problem with this frantic jeremiad, which indiscriminately and wrongly throws Buchanan and Spencer in the same basket of Deplorables, is that it flails at a straw man. Although Western civilization developed among certain ethnic groups and not others, that does not mean that an entire civilization is “reducible” to that fact alone. If I were studying a civilization as a scholar, I would most certainly take into consideration ethnically related data, just as I would if I were distinguishing the folkways of the Matabele tribe in Africa from those of the Yoruba. Why am I disallowed in the universe of Spencer Klavan and his sponsors to state the obvious: that Western civilization was mostly the work of Indo-Europeans (with an assist from Semites)? Were my eyes deceiving me when I saw a picture of a white Thomas Aquinas decorating Klavan’s comments on The Federalist site? Perhaps this medieval theologian should have been shown as colorless to demonstrate his universal nature. 

Klavan also insists that because the “overarching order of the universe was embodied in the person of Jesus Christ,” this somehow abrogates the question of ethnic origins and ethnic identity: “Obedience to Christ’s righteous teaching constitutes membership in a human family that transcends genetic and national allegiance.” I have no idea how Christian universal faith “transcends genetic and national allegiance,” or somehow cancels out ethnic associations, or negates the value of looking at such matters to understand the evolution of a civilization.  The last time I checked the “logos that became flesh” in his human person was a Jewish preacher from the Northern region of the present state of Israel. Are we permitted to take cognizance of that biographical detail without challenging Klavan’s appeal to “transcendence” and “universality”? What about the five-volume work by Catholic priest and inter-testamental historian John A. Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, which tries to understand the Christian savior contextually, that is, as part of the Palestinian Jewish community of his time? Is that approach insufficiently universalist?

Klavan also sententiously reminds us that contrary to what the “alt-right” says, it is not true that “because America is essentially Western,” it is therefore “essentially white.” Here we go again, as Ronald Reagan used to say. Only white nationalists and woke intellectuals would insist that the West and the U.S. at the time of its inception were “reducible” to whiteness. But let us not avoid stating the obvious. The U.S. was founded as a constitutional republic because it was founded by Northern European Protestants, and not Trobriander animists or Amazonian headhunters. The constitutional system that was put in place had what Germans describe as a Sitz im Leben, a specific time and place which necessarily had an ethnic aspect. America’s Founders looked to other Protestant constitutional Republics, like the Swiss city states and Holland, as governments worthy of their respect. Despite their recent war for independence these state-builders also admired England’s constitutional monarchy, in which they found features that could be adapted to their own political order. An historian would do well to focus on these cultural and political relationships instead of trying to pull transcendent “credal nations” out of a neoconservative hat. By the way, the word “transcendence” has several legitimate meanings. Throwing it around as a good term to discourage readers from noticing ethnicity or race is not one of them.

Finally, no serious scholar would deny that the Western world developed over an exceptionally long time into a “multiethnic, intergenerational civilization.” But that does not show that it cannot be traced back to specific ethnicities or that it did not thrive for many centuries among clearly definable ethnic groups. Further, what is uniquely Western flourished among these groups, up until recently when Indo-Europeans decided to commit collective cultural and moral suicide. Therefore, there may well be a link between ethnicity and civilization, even if the latter is not “reducible” to the former. This link may also have something to do with genetic traits, although that fact does not indicate that non-Westerners cannot be attracted to and even adopt certain aspects of Western civilization. But here a difference must be stressed. A Westerner may well enjoy haiku poetry, drink Saki, and study the Japanese language. It is another matter to claim that these cultural characteristics or artefacts are “transcendent” and therefore in no way connected to the ethnic group that invented them. Cultures also blend over time, but again this does not prove that the elements that come together are not traceable to ethnic groups. One does not rule out the other.

Allow me to point out that Spencer Klavan, who is presumably an educated person in the humanistic sense, fully understands the distinctions being drawn. I’ve also no doubt that his sponsors grasp them as well. They should therefore consider that there is point at which anti-racist virtue-signaling from “conservatives” becomes ludicrous as well as tiresome. 

Paul Gottfried

Paul Gottfried

Paul Gottfried is editor in chief of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is also the Raffensperger Professor of Humanities Emeritus at Elizabethtown College, where he taught for 25 years, a Guggenheim recipient, and a Yale Ph.D. He is the author of 13 books, most recently Fascism: Career of a Concept and Revisions and Dissents.

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GHulshart
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I had to look up "Trobriander," but thoroughly agree with "The U.S. was founded as a constitutional republic because it was founded by Northern European Protestants, and not Trobriander animists or Amazonian headhunters."
 
 

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