I’ve often argued that anti-racism has become a religion, maybe something of a cargo cult. The adherents keep replaying the events of the Civil Rights Movement hoping something magical happens. The obvious stuff is the weird obsession with Hitler and the KKK. Every public figure they don’t like is Hitler and every group they don’t like is the KKK.
Then you have the hilariously insane stuff like calling the NBA diverse while baseball is lacking diversity. The word “racist” simply means “bad” for gentry liberals. This Jeff Jacoby column is worth reading for this sort of loony race mongering. Here’s the good part:
Do gender quotas pose that problem? No. But racial quotas certainly do.
American society is awash with race-based quotas, check-offs, preferences, and diversity policies. In countless settings — from college admissions to workplace hiring, from government contracts to legislative redistricting — opportunities and benefits are tied to racial percentages.
Twelve decades after Plessy v. Ferguson, the notorious Supreme Court decision in which eight justices upheld the constitutionality of racial segregation, Americans are labeled and sorted by race more obsessively than ever. It was in Plessy that Justice John Harlan delivered his ringing dissent: “Our Constitution is colorblind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. . . . The law regards man as man and takes no account of his surroundings or of his color.”
Harlan’s fierce insistence that Americans are not to be treated differently on the basis of race became the great objective of the Civil Rights movement in the 20th century. “Racial criteria are irrational, irrelevant, [and] odious to our way of life,” argued Thurgood Marshall on behalf of the NAACP in 1950. “There is no understandable factual basis for classification by race.”
Marshall’s statement was even truer than he could have imagined. Today we know for a fact what scientists in the 1950s could only have surmised: Race is not biological. It is a social construct, not a genetic reality. The DNA of blacks cannot be distinguished from the DNA of Asians or the DNA of whites. Unlike our sex, which is stamped in our chromosomes, our racial and ethnic identities are purely subjective.
“I am an African-American, but in parts of Africa, I am white,” says Stanford professor Duana Fullwiley, an anthropologist of science and medicine. When research in West Africa requires her to fly from California to France to Senegal, she told Harvard Magazine in a 2008 interview, “My race changes as I cross the Atlantic.” In the United States she is black; in France she is considered métisse, or mixed-race; in Senegal, everyone regards her as white.
Of course human beings vary widely in their appearance. Populations from different parts of the world differ notably in their skin color, facial features, and hair texture. But those distinctions are superficial, not racial. They have no immutable significance. They contribute no more to “diversity” than right- and left-handedness do. To rely on such criteria when hiring employees or drawing electoral maps or assessing a corporate board is about as sensible as consulting a Magic 8 Ball.
Exactly no one in the quantitative fields thinks race is not genetic. There’s a debate whether race is the right word as there is great diversity within races. East Africans, for example, are very different from West Africans. East Africans dominate distance running, for example, while West Africans dominate sprint races. This is just one group difference that is well known in quantitative science.
Jacoby may have lost his marbles, but my recollection is he is the token normal at the Boston Globe. To balance his hate speech, they have a thousand hooting maniacs from the Cult of Modern Liberalism. That’s diversity! So, Jacoby may have gone native, but my sense is he is having some fun mocking the the Cult for their anti-racist irrationality.
This is why anti-racism is a religion and not a tactic. From the perspective of the political Left, racism is highly useful. I’m not just talking as a shaming tool. I mean as a political wedge. Demanding proportional representation in legislatures, for example, benefits the Left politically. Demanding head counts by race would help bust up natural rights and replace it with the authoritarianism of positive liberty. But, they can’t do it.
That’s the thing with the religious impulse. It’s largely a theatrical concept. The faithful would rather face the lions than renounce their faith because just before the jaws clamp on their throat, they see the adoration of their coreligionists. Anti-racists would rather damage their own cause than compromise on the faith. It’s what defines them.