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Speaking out against Anti-Racism
by William McGaughey
By racism, I mean, of course, white racism - white peoples feelings of superiority to black people and others. White racism has historical roots. There was white enslavement of black people, of course. At the end of the 19th century, European nations such as France and Great Britain possessed colonies in Africa and Asia that included a large share of the worlds population. The predominately white United States of America was the leading power in the New World. So, if some saw white people as a master race that ruled the world, it had some basis in reality. These white racists were like the matrons of high society who exult in their superior status.
Then there were the common folk among white people who looked at blacks as ignorant, lazy, dirty people whose arrival in a neighborhood marked the beginning of its decline. In their eyes, blacks became associated with so-called ghetto behavior - mass loitering, loud music, foul speech, jaywalking, petty crime. Blacks were seen as welfare recipients or persons having babies at a young age without a job to support them. They were disproportionately persons who committed serious crimes such as murder. In the 1960s, they were responsible for urban riots that involved arson and looting.
The Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s did not deny that black people sometimes engaged in such behavior. It did say to white people, however: Dont judge all blacks by the misconduct of a few. Dont be prejudiced. Look at each person with an open mind and heart and judge that person by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. This was appealing to peoples higher instincts, calling upon them to be objective rather than selfish and emotional in dealing with persons of another race.
By and large, white people bought that argument. They did try to accept blacks individually. White people also went further than this. Acknowledging that blacks were disadvantaged by slavery and by racial segregation in the south, whites instituted and supported programs to rectify historical injustice by giving blacks an extra helping hand. This led to affirmative action in hiring and school admissions and to minority set asides in business contracting. Even if some whites were disadvantaged by such programs, their interests were subordinated to what was believed to be societys greater good - breaking the back of racist practices in the past that had put black people in an inferior position or demoralized them to the point that they could not participate in society on a fair and equal basis.
There is more. Even if education, business, government, and the other institutions of power renounced white-racist practices and made extra efforts to help black people succeed, it was not enough. There was such a thing as institutional racism. In a largely white society, the society is racist by the very fact that mostly white people run it. Blacks are outnumbered in most areas. White people therefore have unspoken, even unconscious, racist attitudes that need to be addressed. Individually, they need to acknowledge their own racism and make a decision to eradicate those hateful attitudes. Anti-racist workshops and self-help groups may help them achieve such a personal transformation in much the same way that Alcoholics Anonymous helps persons suffering from alcohol abuse regain sobriety.
It is at this point that the anti-racist campaign loses me. I am a white man. I see this one-sided attack on racism (defined exclusively as the racism of white people) as an unfair and demoralizing attack on myself and people like me for the fact that we were born white. When actual attitudes or conduct become irrelevant to the determination of a hateful condition, the determination becomes meaningless. The idea of institutional racism or a racism found only among white people is quite divorced from reality. Its effect is to degrade the white people.
This idea subverts the idea of law and equal justice in applying its condemnation to a certain racially determined group of people and not to others. It is the opposite of the original appeal to white people not to judge all black people by the misdeeds of a few individuals. Blacks, and indeed many or most white people themselves, judge all white people harshly. In a word, whites are racist.
And so it seems to me that, as a white American, I am a man without a country or, at least, a man without a people that I can proudly call my own. I have no desire to attack blacks for racism or another fault but merely regain my own dignity. I see this anti-racist political religion in the United States of America as a malignant and demoralizing influence in society which enables other kinds of abuse.
Specifically, I see the anti-racist campaign as a reflection of political maneuvering by the Democrats to win the black vote and get elected to public office; but the Republicans, under George W. Bush, are also not above playing this game in other ways. I see the concept of racism, and the Fair Housing laws and laws against discrimination in employment, as opportunities for attorneys to grow their business of litigation. The lawyers and politicians are selling out their community for personal gain.
Once that mentality is established, the society rapidly goes down hill. Those in power - mostly white - care not a whit about other white people, or about black people, or anyone else. They care only for themselves. Thanks to their self-motivated decisions, the rich get richer and the poor poorer. American jobs are routinely outsourced to low-wage countries as Wall Street cheers. Lobbyists swarm the halls of Congress seeking parochial advantage at the expense of the general taxpayer and citizen. The U.S. government sends troops to invade another country as private contractors connected to high government officials secure lucrative contracts and many less well-connected Army Reserve or National Guard soldiers came back from Iraq severely wounded or in body bags.
How could we as a nation have sunk so low? Its easy. The great mass of white Americans is demoralized. Black Americans, seeing these bad things as the product of a white society, are likewise unable or unwilling to act in a constructive way. On the ground level of our society, we are all fighting and blaming each other for racial and other inadequacies as the knaves and thieves at the top of the social pyramid, abetted by the news media, continue to make out like bandits. No, this unjustified blaming of white people for racism is not helpful, not to whites and not to black people either. This is wrong. Its untrue. Its hurting the country. I know this in my heart. What to do about it, though, is another matter.
Talk is cheap. Speaking out in public, on the other hand, qualifies as a type of action. For now, this is the only option available to me. So, if I think this anti-racist, anti-white campaign is wrong, I should say so in public. I should speak my mind openly not only among people who might agree with me but also among those who would disagree and even call me a racist. Political progress begins to be made when my critics see that use of this defamatory language has little power over me. I am undeterred in my efforts by such intimidation, buoyed by the vague hope that others who agree with my views will follow my example and go public.
So far this has not happened. I am still alone. I am regarded as a kook and exponent of hate. But that does not matter. I persist, believing in my cause. It is the cause of simple truth.
So what are some of the things I have done?
First, I ran for U.S. Senate in the 2002 Independence Party primary challenging both the Democrats and Republicans by opposing their core issues and constituencies. I was photographed repeatedly carrying a large picket sign with slogans on either side expressing my political platform. One side of the sign said: I believe that the Federal Government should reduce the standard workweek to 32 hours by 2010. The other side said: I believe in the full citizenship, dignity, and quality of white males (and of everyone else).
Minnesotas largest newspaper, the Star Tribune, would not accept a paid ad from my campaign unless reference to the second campaign position was eliminated. I refused to do that and so no ads were run. Furthermore, the Star Tribune would not mention my name in any of the stories about the Senatorial primary, not even in the election results. Although the party and this newspaper were dead set against me, I finished second in a three-man race, with 8,482 votes, or 31% of the total.
The next such occasion was when the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Minneapolis and St. Paul announced that, in his opinion, white Minnesotans were just as racist as whites in Louisiana where he had previously served. The Archbishop appeared on a panel with black ministers at a cafe in north Minneapolis, not far from my home, in December 2003. At this forum, he repeated his remarks condemning white racism. Third in line to ask a question, I stated forthrightly that as a white man I did not agree with the Archbishop. Someone else on the panel remarked that I was insane. There was a follow-up conversation with a woman who headed the Churchs Social Justice division. See discussion of race with the Archbishop. No minds were changed.
Then, in June 2003, I decided to run for President of the United States in the Democratic primaries. In consultation with a photojournalist from HBO, Alexandra Pelosi, daughter of Nancy Pelosi, I planned and carried out a discussion of race in Des Moines, Iowa, at the Civil War monument near the Iowa state capitol. Invitations were sent to all the other Democratic candidates, the news media, and other organizations. A week earlier, Pelosi sent her regrets. In the end, the only participants in this event were two friends from Minneapolis, one black and one white, and me. I continued my campaign in Louisiana, after being stricken from the South Carolina primary ballot, but did not raise the issue of race. I finished fifth among seven candidates, with 3,161 votes, or 2% of the total, in the Louisiana Democratic Presidential primary held on March 8, 2004.
The next racial encounter came at a workshop in 2005 sponsored by the Undoing Racism committee of my neighborhood organization in Minneapolis, the Harrison Neighborhood Association. This was a two-day workshop conducted by the Peoples Institute based on the premise that white people are inherently racist and privileged. I disagreed with the facilitators and others attending this workshop. Again, no one was persuaded. The story of this event is told at A Neighborhood Workshop on ending White Racism.
Finally, in December 2006, I organized an open discussion of race with a newly elected member of the Minneapolis School Board, Chris Stewart, whose name had been linked to a web site satirizing the campaign web site white-female candidate for U.S. Congress. This event, attended by reporters from three newspapers including the Star Tribune, was promoted through the e-democracy forum for the city of Minneapolis. Twenty to thirty people participated. (See MPRAC Sponsors an Open Discussion of Race.) Stewart and I went head-to-head on the race question. There was a story in one of the papers (not the Star Tribune) focusing not on the discussion but upon Chris Stewart whose views, though we were on the opposite ends of the argument, were not so unlike my own.
The sum total of all these events was no publicity whatsoever even though race relations may be the main issue of U.S. politics and I was one of the few on the other side of the question willing to stick his neck out . Only if this subject is approached in a particular way will journalists give it any coverage. And so, it appears on the surface that a complete consensus has been achieved in this matter among white people apart from a few racist dissenters such as myself whose views do not deserve to be dignified either by reporting or comment.
Its important to say that my quarrel is not with black people but with people in the white community, especially in the media and other institutions of elite opinion, who have imposed a corrosive orthodoxy upon discussions of race. I myself live in a racially mixed neighborhood and have close personal relations with black people. I do not make any attempt to hide my political views from them. Black people with whom I have spoken seem to accept me for who I am, lacking the ill feelings that anti-racist whites might have for a person with such opinions.
I would also note that, even if racial victimhood plays well politically, black people are themselves far from being united on this question. The Jesse Jacksons and Al Sharptons of this world do not speak for all in the black community. Some of the most perceptive commentary on the question of race has come from black conservatives such as Thomas Sowell, Ward Connerly, and Shelby Steele. Often derived as Uncle Toms and self-hating blacks, they have done some moral heavy lifting. Next to them, considering all the abuse they have taken, I do indeed enjoy white privilege. That much can be conceded.
Since not all white people agree with the reigning consensus on race, I would assume that the reason they fail to speak out and express their true views is the fear of being called a racist, and the damage to reputations and careers that this would entail. Look, the institution of slavery was abolished over 140 years ago. Racial segregation was never practiced in Minnesota or other northern states. Why, then, do white Minnesotans today think they are so vulnerable to the charge of racism? Cant we just move on and try to get along in the here and now?
It boils down to a lack of courage, not so much among black people as among whites. Forget politics or religion. Questions of this sort need to be decided in a persons own heart. So, white people, if your inner attitude toward black people is so bad that you need to self-flagellate, do so with gusto and conviction. Otherwise, show a bit of courage and dispute the false charges being brought against you.
Be not like the ones of little backbone, easily impressed by authority and by the prevailing opinions, who, in another time, would have righteously served as guards in concentration camps or accusers at the Salem witchcraft trials. Stand up for yourself and your convictions. If the United States of America is indeed land of the free and home of the brave, you can do no less.
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