Once upon a time racism used to be relatively easy to pin down. It was segregated lunch counters and slave ships, it was nooses and chains, it was the legal oppression of a group of people on account of the color of their skin. Then racism stopped being a set of laws and became an abstraction, first a set of attitudes and then a set of attitudes implying another set of attitudes.
Racism changed from laws that deliberately discriminate against black people to policies that serve to disadvantage black people, whether or not that is their intent. In 1971, 17 years after its landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling, the Supreme Court decided that schools shouldn’t just not be forcibly segregated, but that they could be forcibly desegregated with the use of busing, even if there was no actual intent to segregate and in places where the racial differences were the result of geography. That same year in Griggs v. Duke Power Co., the Court ruled that a high school diploma job requirement was racially discriminatory because fewer black people possessed them.
From an attempt to overturn racist laws, the war on racism had shifted to forcibly legislating big government’s idea of racial equality. The goal was no longer removing inequality, but artificially creating a desired statistical outcome.
In 1965, LBJ introduced Affirmative Action as the “next and more profound stage of the battle for civil rights.” The new goal was “not just equality as a right and a theory, but equality as a fact and as a result.” And manufacturing equality first required manufacturing inequality to achieve a perfect balance. Equal opportunity in the free market was traded for an equal result in a planned racial economy. And it worked about as well as all planned economies do.
In the process, racism was conflated with socialism. Principled civil rights objections to government laws were the new racism. Obstructing the unlimited power of the Federal government had become the equivalent of bigotry. To truly support racial equality, one had to support racial inequality and to show one’s opposition to past government racial laws, one had to support the new government racial laws meant to redress those laws… even 60 years later.
Racism had not only become an abstraction, it had become the abstraction of an abstraction, transcending race to fuse with attitudes toward government power returning to the old Civil War Republican formula of Federalism as anti-racism and States’ Rights as racism. 150 years after the Civil War, federalism as anti-racism is a false formula imposed on a debate going back to the Washington Administration about where the center of political power should rest.
Throughout the 20th Century, Democrats searched around for a compelling justification for seizing and wielding unlimited power. President Wilson did it in the name of a global crusade. FDR did it in the name of an economic crisis and the underclass. But his Democratic successors zeroed in on race and made it their own, abusing power in the name of combating racism.
Racism is no longer about race. Not when Bill Clinton was the first black president and Allen West is a racist for bringing fried chicken to a Congressional Black Caucus meeting. Liberalism is the new race, and it is a category that transcends and encompasses race. Liberalism defines race, allowing white liberals to be defined as black and black conservatives to be defined as white.
The race in racism is nothing but a symbol now, but since most people still assume that racism means hating black people, rather than questioning government power, it helps to have a half-black man around as a symbol of why abuses of government power are justified for the greater good of race relations.
Most people, black and white, don’t understand the switch that has been pulled on them or that the racism being talked about is not the kind that involves a white man hitting a black man, but a debate over unlimited political power between two political parties, both of whom have at one time eroded the “States” part and emphasized the “United” part with a variety of justifications, among them that of treating black people as wards of the Federal government.
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