For roughly 150 years — say, from the 1830s to sometime around 1980 — the South resolutely maintained that Everything is About Race.
When years ago I took a course in Southern history (from Barbara J. Fields, one of the more impressive professors I ever had), among the more interesting tidbits of information we covered was that what we now call “racism,” at least in the specific form existing between American whites and American blacks, was an invented ideology that was used to justify slavery ex post, not the other way around. And it specifically founds its organized proponents in response to the coalescing abolitionist movement.
Certainly Anglo-Americans always looked down on blacks as being inferior. What needs to be borne in mind, however, is that Anglo-Americans, aping the attitudes of their kinsmen back home, looked down on everyone who wasn’t English. The Irish had been regarded as vaguely sub-human for generations. “Much may be made of a Scotsman, if he be caught young.” That observation (by Dr. Johnson, no less) was not made humorously; he really did regard the Scots as inherently not the human equivalent of the English (this despite Edinburgh University’s already being world famous for its medical faculty). Later on, during the heyday of the Raj, Englishmen assured each other — in perfect earnestness — that “the wogs begin at Calais.” These attitudes weren’t by any means unique to the island, either. The Spanish during the generations of the Reconquista developed a highly detailed (I would say “sophisticated,” but since it rested on an understanding of humanity that is neither more nor less than monstrous, I’ll use the more value-neutral expression) system for shoving humans into a hierarchical structure based upon the “purity” of their blood. Gobineau, the godfather of modern “scientific” racism, was French.
And everyone knew — just knew — that the Jews had to file off their children’s horns and trim their tails before allowing them outside. Et cetera.
American white-on-black racism, as a coherent theory, developed and first came to flower in the specific atmosphere of the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. As is true of pretty much everything and everyone, it was a product of its time and bore the cultural stamps of that fact. Which is to say that it had the vocabulary of modern science to frame its arguments. Gobineau was similarly a product of the same era.
And as is also true of pretty much every argument that just happens — conveniently — to support the less defensible side of any argument (see, e.g: “climate change” causes everything from ice forming on the Great Lakes earlier in the season than for 40 years past to earthquakes to unusually quiet to unusually stormy hurricane seasons) the defenders of chattel slavery eagerly seized on “scientific” racism to show that American slavery, so far from being a blight, a disgrace, and a monstrosity, was inevitable and just and even beneficial to its victims. Well. Who could have seen that coming?
Ah! but life comes with so many double-edged swords, doesn’t it? By embracing racism to justify the indefensible, the South backed itself, ideologically, into a corner. If something is supported by scientific fact, you can’t very well choose to wash your hands of it, can you? The South’s painting itself into a moral and ideological corner was a position that made come true John Brown’s scaffold prediction: that the sins of this guilty land could never be washed away except in blood. And so it came to pass, in blood (nearly one percent of the gross American population died in that war; nearly a quarter of Southern males of military age did not come home: that’s death on a Great War or Great Patriotic War scale) and ashes. Quite a bit of it Southern blood and almost exclusively Southern ashes. But racism was the gift that kept on giving, so to speak. It trapped the South’s consciousness in amber, like a beetle. I mean, losing a war doesn’t alter scientific fact, does it? Quite on the contrary, losing a war when you’re right on the merits does nothing more than to suggest all the more strongly that you mount the barricades (see, e.g: inter-war German politics). It tells you that you must hold all the more tightly to the principles that got you into it; that you dance ever more insistently with the one that brung you to the dance. It makes it nearly impossible to climb down, in short.
And that’s how it played out in the South for decades. The South didn’t — couldn’t — climb down. Indeed, the further the war receded into the past, the more fervently those who had never carried a rifle or served a gun waved the flag and mouthed the certainties that had ruined their ancestors.
Not until the ovens of Auschwitz cooled, and Americans could see the logical outcome of the proposition that some people aren’t truly human, was there an undeniable counter-example which had the potency to punch through the moral certainty the South had been carrying around its neck like a rotting fish for 70 years. It’s too much to say that the Holocaust launched the civil rights movement, or that the fires of Warsaw provided the embers on which a million and more “whites only” signs were incinerated. It is true, though, that what happened in Europe between 1939 and 1945 was that which could not be explained away, which could not be made to fit into any data set containing the idea of the sub-human. It introduced a cognitive dissonance that, like all such phenomena, had to express itself.
Of course, just as wars turn their bloodiest when it’s plain which side is going to lose (compare the casualties post-March, 1918 with what had come before; compare the post-Stalingrad casualties on the Eastern Front to what came before), so it all played out with the South and racism, all over again, everything minus the invading armies. Just as the abolition movement had provided the grain of sand about which the bastard pearl of racism formed, so the civil rights movement in its day brought those pearls out of the drawer, to be paraded around in broad daylight one last time.
I grew up in a small town in the South. True, it was in what is usually described as the Upper South, which if not fully culturally distinct is still ascertainably different from the Lower South or the Coastal South. And by 1980 the idea that Everything is About Race was dead there. When I got to Charleston in the late 1980s, it was dead there, too. I’m not saying that everyone joined hands in a circle and sang Sunday school songs. I’m not saying that there neither was nor is any consciousness — on either side — that You’re Not Like Me, but no one, and I mean no one of any consequence at all, even pretended any more that “race” as such was anything like a guiding concept around which you could build a society. The few people who still dared to express with favor the Old Ideas earned only looks from their listeners that said, as plainly as if they’d snorted it out loud, “What rock did you just crawl out from under?” David Duke’s political career fizzled and went out. By the late 1980s George C. Wallace was actively courting black votes . . . and was getting them. What can it say about the resilience of race as a socio-political anchor that even Strom Thurmond in South Carolina found it inexpedient to wave that flag any more? Whether he still believed it in his own heart is not the question, but rather whether he felt he could safely retain or had to jettison it from his political organization in order to stay in office.
So after 150 years even the South finally joined, kicking and screaming, perhaps, the consensus that, whatever else you may think about “race,” it’s not part of the bedrock of society.
And then came 2008. We elected a candidate who promised to “heal” divisions which existed, if at all, mostly in the context of old scars (which undeniably might and did throb from time to time) of past fights. What we got was a mountebank who himself and with his senior accomplices relentlessly pounded on the idea that yes, Dorothy, everything is and will always remain about race. They not only never not let slip the chance to shut up about any tempting news-item that had the least “racial” component to it, but they actively involved themselves in those situations, and invariably on the side of inflammation. Gentle Reader will note that not once has that administration ever pitched in on the side of “you all both need to calm the hell down and take a powder.”
On the contrary, they’ve gotten the official machinery of the federal government involved specifically to make about race situations which had bugger all to do with it. A half-Latino neighborhood watch guy gets jumped and damn near killed by a punk who happens to be black, successfully defends himself, and in the process kills his assailant. Does it matter that the survivor of the attack is anything but a WASP, that he grew up in a mixed-race family, that he actively campaigned on behalf of justice for a different black kid who got done wrong by the local police? Of course not. He must be prosecuted for murder, and threatened with financial ruin for “civil rights” violations. A police officer is beaten by a violent felon (within minutes after committing the felony) who nearly succeeds in seizing the officer’s weapon, and then who, when ordered to stop and surrender (remember that the assault on the police officer was all by itself a felony, and so the officer had the right and the duty to arrest him for that if for no other reason), charges the officer and is shot dead. Let’s send White House officials to the criminal’s funeral. Let’s use our race-huckstering surrogates (Al Sharpton) to stir up orgies of looting, arson, and physical attacks. Let’s enlist all the grievance-mongering organizations to insist that “justice” for this violent felon commands that we criminally prosecute an officer who did no more than his duty.
Quite the opposite from being the “first post-racial president,” we have in power and will for more than two years more have in power an administration that has successfully set about un-doing 150 or more years of moral progress in this nation. He and those like him are doing it for the cynical reason of electoral advantage. With the failings of the socialist economic model becoming ever more glaringly apparent, and the (to borrow a line from the socialists themselves) contradictions of the FDR political coalition fracturing the solidarity of the machine that delivered over 70 years of political domination to the Democrats, the left-extremists who have captured that party on the national level at least cannot hope for ascendancy without nearly 100% loyalty from their dwindling base. Hence announcing that the borders are for all intents and purposes open. Hence the vilification of every American black who strays from the plantation (ask Mia Love, Timothy Scott, and that other Republic fellow — can’t call his name from memory, whose accomplishments the NAACP has yet to acknowledge, let alone celebrate). Ask Thomas Sowell.
They’re doing it principally for electoral advantage. At least I’m wiling to grant them that much. That’s how partisan politics works (it’s also why the Founding Fathers so sternly inveighed against what was then called “faction”). There is, at least as to some of them — and alas! Dear Leader must be counted among these — another explanation. A more subversive, sinister explanation. An explanation which arises from a fundamental rejection of the American Experiment, and which seeks the splintering of American society, which underpins what these see as the abhorrent position America occupies in the world. Thomas Sowell writes in several places about how the Ceylonese civil war came to pass. At one time Ceylon was merely an island occupied by two culturally distinct groups, the Tamil and the Sinhalese, with the latter outnumbering the former. What we Americans know as “affirmative action” was enlisted after independence to “rectify” alleged socio-politico-economic imbalances. Unscrupulous leaders on both sides realized the potentialities of the situation, and began the same sort of race-baiting that we have come to expect from the current United States president. There then followed decades of bloody civil war. They made of a beautiful island a howling charnel house. And as is the case with all civil wars (in fact, all wars in general), the longer it went on the more extreme the leadership on both sides became. Carnage.
The Ceylonese civil war paralyzed the island. Now, Ceylon is — I won’t say of no — but of very little consequence in how the rest of the world lives and works. They could completely blow the place off the map and very few people outside their immediate circle would be tossed into physical or economic disaster. At the risk of understatement, that’s not true of the United States. Our position, for better or worse, is the anchor bolt to which most of the rest of the world is tethered. There are some things that are just not going to change so long as the United States remains what and where it is. This fact is recognized by the Marxists. The destruction of American cultural and economic hegemony is therefore the lodestar of their political universe. And the easiest way to destroy anything is to exploit the fissures which are already there, the fault lines which already run — however latently — through the structure.
Our Dear Leader is a Marxist to his core. He was born to one, he lived for years in a household headed by one, he was raised to adulthood by two of them. Launched on the mainland, he gravitated to them, sought out their political support, and eagerly received their teachings. The world as he earnestly desires it to be cannot come about without the destruction of the United States as the world’s predominating cultural, economic, and political power. It cannot. Its position must therefore be destroyed, and whatever tends to that end is to be pursued. Relentlessly. Exciting passions, hacking open wounds, stoking fires of manufactured outrage are his efforts to pry open the fissures and faults in American society. Because what disunites us weakens us. Because we are the enemy. Because our own president harbors an unextinguishable animosity for the country he leads.
Once more, Everything is Once More About Race.