The United States today may be the most color-blind society in history. We’re a country led by a black president, with legal guarantees of equal rights for all. Racist groups are almost non-existent, and are more likely to invite ridicule than to attract recruits. Yet many who ought to celebrate our successes are instead striving to re-divide us along racial lines.
Consider the University of Minnesota, Duluth’s new campaign to expose so-called “white privilege.”
The “Un-fair” campaign aims to establish an “evolved community free of individual, systemic and institutionalized racism” by challenging “the white monoculture and its systems and institutions, and the privileges it creates for whites.” In a campaign video, defaced “white” persons offer apologetic testimonials for the color of their skin. The campaign seeks to institutionalize its own kind of racism by dividing America into “colored” and “white,” while advancing the absurd claim that all “white” people enjoy “privileges that are unearned just because of the color of their skin.” Try telling pale-skinned children in Appalachia or rural Maine that they’re privileged.
The Duluth campaign enjoys the support of the NAACP, the Lutheran Social Service and the League of Women Voters. It’s part of a larger, national Progressive movement against “white privilege” that promotes socially engineered equality of outcomes, i.e. more statist solutions. The campaign features Tim Wise, a race-fixated author and activist who advocates fundamentally reordering American society and replacing U.S. institutions of government.
Tim Wise’s philosophy, explained in his book, is radically dangerous to our constitutional order, and is gaining in momentum, in media savvy and in political utility. At root, it is about rejecting the American founding. The flawed principles that define this movement are also, ironically, squarely at odds with the best of the civil rights movement of the last two centuries.
Whereas Wise draws inspiration from yesteryear’s black nationalists such as Martin Delaney, who advocated for racially-oriented government, the more principled and ultimately more successful model is Frederick Douglass. Far from seeking to destroy America’s constitutional order, Douglass reminded Americans of their founding in 1852: “Your fathers, the fathers of this republic, did, most deliberately…and with a sublime faith in the great principles of justice and freedom, lay deep the corner-stone of the national superstructure, which has risen and still rises in grandeur around you.”
Douglass’s principled understanding was reflected in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous 1963 speech: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” This dream echoes America’s founding principles, as MLK recognized. “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
But Tim Wise and the organizers of the “Un-fair” campaign would dismantle our constitutional republic and its rule of law in favor of their murky vision of absolutist equality of stations. They insist that America is deeply racist and they thereby engender a sense of alienation among those who, as David Azerrad puts it, “most need to believe in the American Dream to improve their lot. Indeed, it is very difficult to see how the upward-looking labor required to lift blacks out of endemic urban poverty is to be sustained if those most in need of help have accepted the idea that America has no place for them.”
For Progressive groups today, character is only skin-deep and one’s standing in society is merely the result of race or other arbitrary or non-legal distinctions. Progressives seek to divide Americans along any lines conceivable (race, class, religion, gender, lifestyle, age, legality, etc.) and treat groups differently under the law in order to “fix” society through centralized government power.
According to the Declaration, however, “human” is the only relevant category. America is at its best and justice is most likely when its inhabitants are known, from the government’s perspective, as individual citizens equal under the law. Modern day race-baiters are dividing Americans so that they can remake the United States according to their own ideology, even though a house divided cannot stand. Their efforts must be rebuffed at every occasion. We as Americans have come too far to give in now to a race-based philosophy of government.