The Economist, in a cover article, headlined “The new ideology of race,” says that “America’s problem with racism can be divided into two parts. One contains all the myriad injustices that still blight African-American lives a century and a half after the end of slavery. The other is the way that factions on the right exploit racial division as a political tool. An example of the first occurred on May 25th on a shabby street corner in Minneapolis, when George Floyd was killed by a white policeman. An example of the second occurred on July 3rd, at Mount Rushmore, against the monumental backdrop of the country’s greatest presidents, when Donald Trump sought to inflame a culture war centred on race to boost his chances of a second term. To be successful, a campaign for racial justice needs to deal with both.“
In the past, the article explains, “Leaders like Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King used vigorous protest and relentless argument to push society towards their vision of equality of opportunity and equality before the law … [and] … Most Americans still hew to that classical liberal ideal as do many of those who marched with justified anger over the killing of Mr Floyd.” But, the article goes on to say, “a dangerous rival approach has emerged from American universities (see article). It rejects the liberal notion of progress. It defines everyone by their race, and every action as racist or anti-racist. It is not yet dominant, but it is dynamic and it is spreading out of the academy into everyday life. If it supplants liberal values, then intimidation will chill open debate and sow division to the disadvantage of all, black and white.“
“The premise underpinning this ideology is correct,” the article says, “racial inequality is shockingly persistent. Even though attitudes to race have improved, the quality of African-American lives has not kept pace. A third of black boys born in 2001 will probably spend time locked up, compared with one in 17 white boys. In 1968 black households earned around 60% as much as white households, and owned assets that were less than 10% of those of a typical white family. They still do.” In other words, race is a problem in America and in Canada and Europe and in Australia, too. Oh, and I, personally, have seen, racism ~ against both whites and blacks ~ in Asia, too. I have also seen anti-Asian racism in North American. Oh, and try to get service from officials in a government office in Québec if you either don’t speak French at all, and less than 20% of Canadians are bilingual, or speak with an accent like mine. The tribalism of the Québecois and Québecoisse extends beyond language … it also wants to ban the wearing of kippahs and hijabs by anyone in any sort of an official capacity ~ even school teachers. Is that racism? Yes, of course, it is. Instead of vandalizing statues of Sir John A Macdonald Canadians should be asking themselves how they got to this point? How can it be illegal to wear a headscarf when teaching school? And how did we manage to elect a prime minister who is afraid say to the Government of Québec “if you pass this odious law I will use the powers of the Constitution to disallow it“?
The Economist says that the anti-racism ideology is taking “a wrong turn, by seeking to impose itself through intimidation and power … [rather than through] … the power that comes from persuasion and elections … [instead, too many of us insist upon] … silencing your critics, insisting that those who are not with you are against you, and shutting out those who are deemed privileged or disloyal to their race. It is a worldview where everything and everyone is seen through the prism of ideology—who is published, who gets jobs, who can say what to whom; one in which in-groups obsess over orthodoxy in education, culture and heritage; one that enforces absolute equality of outcome, policy by policy, paragraph by paragraph, if society is to count as just.” But it is important to note that the people of Québec elected their current government, in some part, because it promised to enact odious, racist laws and some continue to support Justin Trudeau because he is a coward who is afraid to take a stand against discrimination.
The economist goes on to say that “It is tempting to see such ideas as nothing more than overheated campus radicalism. And, true enough, they have not yet taken over a political party. When people speak of ending white privilege, most of them have good things in mind like inclusion and justice. But ideas are important, and the spread of campus terminology into newsrooms and boardrooms invites in ideologues. Their approach is already taking a toll. In universities research agendas are being warped. Outside them, public shaming and intimidation have been curbing debate.“
But then The Economist finally gets to the point. The real problem isn’t racism ~ that particular form or tribalism has been with us for as long as races have interacted and it will remain, it’s part of human nature. We can and should try to educate ourselves in order to remove its more loathsome aspects but human nature being what it is we will never eradicate it, and it is beyond silly to even try. The real problem is that liberalism, itself, is under attack by a particularly nauseating sort of progressive, collectivist conformism. Liberalism has been attacked before, most recently by both wicked fascism and its evil step-sister Marist-Leninist communism. Liberalism fought back and won. But this new form of fascism is home-grown and it styles itself as being anti-fascist even as it insists that we all bind ourselves together ~ into a fasces of sorts ~ by conforming to one, approved, sort of group-think.
The Economist says, and I agree fully that, “The new ideology of race is not just wrong and dangerous, it is also unnecessary. Liberalism can offer a fairer, more promising route to reform. It asserts the dignity of the individual and the legal, civil and moral equality of all people, whatever the colour of their skin. It believes in progress through argument and debate, in which reason and empathy lift truthful ideas and marginalise bigotry and falsehood … [because] … Liberalism thrives on a marketplace of ideas, so diversity has a vital role. New voices and experiences enrich the debate. Liberalism does not fight power with power, which risks replacing one abusive regime with another. Instead it uses facts and evidence, tested in debate, to help the weak take on the strong … [and] … Liberalism is all about progress, including about putting right its mistakes—and there have been many, especially over race, including finding reasons to accommodate imperialism and slavery. That is one reason why, in the 250 years in which it has been influential, humanity has seen unprecedented material, scientific and political gains, as well as a vast extension of social and political rights. Progress on racial inequities has been part of this—as in South Africa, where liberals joined forces with the trade unions and communists to sink apartheid … [thus] … Liberals can help in America, too. Much of the material gulf between African-Americans and whites can be bridged with economic policies that improve opportunity. You do not need to build a state based on identity. Nor do you need tools like reparations, which come with practical difficulties and have unintended consequences. Economic policies that are race-neutral, which people qualify for because of poverty, not the colour of their skin, can make a big difference. They have a chance of uniting Americans, not dividing them. If the mood now really is for change, they would be politically sellable and socially cohesive.“
In an opinion piece in the Globe and Mail, Robyn Urback explains how the conformist “cancel culture” works, forcing all but the most prominent journalists and academics to self-silence or be expelled from the inner circle. This is the tactic that the progressive conformists use to stifle opposition or even questions about the orthodoxy they want to impose on us all, especially on liberals.
Here, in Canada, since the late 1960s, liberalism has been almost solely represented by Conservatives. Pierre Trudeau, Jean Chrétien and Justin Trudeau were (are) all illiberal, at best. It was the Conservative Brian Mulroney who led the fight against apartheid. It was the Conservative Stephen Harper who offered economic policies that applied to all, equally, without regard to race or creed, gender or language. It was progressives who opposed them both. The conformist ideology of the progressive left is an evil mix of the wort of both communism and fascism. Real Canadian liberals ~ and there are many, many good ones, still, in the Liberal Party, must rise up and toss out the illiberal ideas of the Trudeaus, père et fils, especially the ugly racism that is part of the ethno-linguistically based Québecois tribalism and recover the liberal values of Sir Wilfred Laurier, Louis St Laurent, Lester Pearson and Paul Martin Jr.
Conservatives must choose leaders who recover the best of Mulroney and Harper and leave their less stellar attributes behind. Canadians are burdened, mainly by association, with the racism that currently troubles America. But we have our own problems, too, and they need to be addressed, but the right, Conservative, response to racism is to reinforce our liberal values, not to conform to the new collectivist, progressive and downright fascist ideology.