Friday, February 01, 2008

The Misunderstood Race Issue

Guest post:

Though the Democrats have tried to put a lid on the race issue in their campaign, it will work itself out again before too long. Obama may have better people skills. He doesn't have that look of perpetual dyspepsia that Clinton evinces, which is a symptom of her ill-concealed arrogance. But Obama is black after all, and if you think that doesn't matter to liberal Democrats then you've misunderstood the race issue. In fact, it's been misunderstood for decades.

First lesson: Racialism is not ipso facto synonymous with conservatism. It is not based on principle but on irrational prejudice. If any group is really trying to look beyond the divisive race issue it is conservatives, particularly social conservatives. On the other hand, I've met many liberals who were bigots. As it turns out, most of their bigotry is directed at blacks, for unique reasons that seem to have to do with culture and history (see Sowell for more information). As such, Jews as well as other whites can hold prejudiced views against blacks. This point also belies long-standing stereotypes about Jews, race and anti-Semitism.

Second lesson: The mainstream has traditionally equated anti-Jewishness with racialism, yet there are plenty of people, including non-whites, who are anti-Jewish without harboring any other racial views. Hatred of Jews is motivated more by conspiratorial views of society than biological theories, hence the recurring tendency of the Left to indulge in anti-Semitism. By that same token there is a brand of white ethnocentrism which is inclusive towards Jews (e.g., Jared Taylor's American Renaissance movement). Finally, a serious belief in equality means that blacks, possessing human nature like everyone else, are just as liable to bigotry as whites (see a good commentary on this point from a theologically conservative perspective).

Third lesson: As Liberty Corner has pointed out in the past, left-liberal views on race manifest themselves in the form of socialist paternalism. Maybe it should be called "compassionate racism." According to this, what are seen as disruptive tendencies on the part of many blacks are deemed inevitable (which they are not) and must be pandered to (which they should not) for to sake of statist welfare policies. This is because what motivates liberal elitists is not concern for blacks, any more than Marxist leaders are concerned for the "plight of the worker." It's about the manipulation of people for the sake of political power. So if there is any difference between racists on the left and on the right, it is that the former are sanctimonious hypocrites who preach equality while covertly segregating themselves economically and socially from blacks.

Fourth lesson: But what about racism on the "right"? Does my model still hold? I maintain that it does. Again, racial bigotry is an irrational response to physical or social differences in other people. Ideologically it stems from the nationalism and materialism of the 19th century; views anathema to a traditional Christian outlook. This fact explains how someone like Karl Marx shared the same bigoted racial views as his ultra-nationalist contemporaries. I've found that right-wingers who back populist/nativist political movements are often social libertines. They may be against big government, gun-control, immigration, etc. but are to the left on issues like abortion, euthanasia, traditional marriage, and public morality. Their thinking is emotive rather than principled. This may explain why Hitler's political appeal in 1930s Germany cut across traditional political boundaries, since he catered to the short-sighted, hedonistic sentiments of both socialists and radical nationalists.

In conclusion, it is clear that the race issue in politics has been long misunderstood... perhaps deliberately so.