August 30, 2017

"What makes racism so sweet?"

Why the Left Can’t Let Go of Racism by Shelby Steele in the Wall St. Journal
Liberals sell innocence from America’s past. If bigotry is pronounced dead, the racket is over.

Today Americans know that active racism is no longer the greatest barrier to black and minority advancement. Since the 1960s other pathologies, even if originally generated by racism, have supplanted it. White racism did not shoot more than 4,000 people last year in Chicago. To the contrary, America for decades now—with much genuine remorse—has been recoiling from the practice of racism and has gained a firm intolerance for what it once indulged.

But Americans don’t really trust the truth of this. It sounds too self-exonerating....Americans nevertheless yearn to know whether or not we are a racist people. A staple on cable news these days is the “racial incident,” which stands as a referendum on this question. Today there is Charlottesville. Yesterday there were the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray and others. ....

Such people—and the American left generally—have a hunger for racism that is almost craven. The writer Walker Percy once wrote of the “sweetness at the horrid core of bad news.” It’s hard to witness the media’s oddly exhilarated reaction to, say, the death of Trayvon Martin without applying Percy’s insight. A black boy is dead. But not all is lost. It looks like racism.

What makes racism so sweet? Today it empowers....The ’60s recast racism in the national consciousness as an incontrovertible sin, the very worst of all social evils....Thus, redemption—paying off the nation’s sins—became the moral imperative of a new political and cultural liberalism. President Lyndon Johnson turned redemption into a kind of activism: the Great Society, the War on Poverty, school busing, liberalized welfare policies, affirmative action, and so on.

...Soon liberalism had become a cultural identity that offered Americans a way to think of themselves as decent people. To be liberal was to be good. Here we see redemptive liberalism’s great ingenuity: It seized proprietorship over innocence itself. It took on the power to grant or deny moral legitimacy across society. Liberals were free of the past while conservatives longed to resurrect it, bigotry and all...The liberal identity must have racism, lest it lose innocence and the power it conveys.
Posted by Jill Fallon at August 30, 2017 8:06 PM | Permalink