Over the holiday period, I talked to a friend who teaches at a Catholic college in the Northeast. The professor, who is a believing Catholic, mentioned to me that he can’t discern any religious curiosity or sensibility at all within his students. The only thing he has seen, other than the usual progressive diversity ideology, is an interest among white males in mild forms of white identity politics. The professor — who, I should emphasize, does not espouse this kind of politics — said this is a clear reaction to the fact that these students are pummeled all day, every day, with an ideological message that they, as white males, are the worst people in the world.
I recalled that conversation just now when I saw this think piece by the (white) leftist Noah Berlatsky on NBC News’s website. Here is the headline:
What if NBC News ran an op-ed piece condemning black children and their parents for the way these parents raise them? Or, well, any other ethnic or religious group? It’s impossible to conceive of. What, exactly, is the end game of progressives like Noah Berlatsky, if not to build a cultural consensus for discrimination and punishment of whites on the basis of race?
Berlatsky begins by talking about how his kid goes to a school where he and others successfully lobbied the school to stop observing Columbus Day, and instead to observe “Native People’s Day.” Alas, the school is a private one, and Berlatsky feels kind of guilty for that. His column is based largely on the findings of Margaret Hagerman, an academic sociologist who claims that white people raise their kids to enact white privilege. Even the ones who try not to:
Yet, as Hagerman told me, “all of these families in their own ways were participating in the reproduction of racial inequality.” Children were sent to private school, or when they went to public school benefited from private tutors or enrichment classes. Even community service can reproduce racist ideas. It’s hard to see people as equals when you always have power over them, or when your primary experience with them involves giving them charity.
The spectacle of well-intentioned people working, half unconsciously, to solidify and perpetuate their own power is not an encouraging one. “I feel like my findings are pretty dismal,” Hagerman admits. “When you have people who have a lot of wealth alongside this racial privilege, they’re ultimately making decision that benefit their own kids, and I don’t know how you really interrupt that.”
White parents who require their children to do charitable service to others? Bigots!:
Even community service can reproduce racist ideas. It’s hard to see people as equals when you always have power over them, or when your primary experience with them involves giving them charity.
As for white adults, Hagerman says, if they really want a less racist world, they may need to rethink how they approach parenting. “Everyone is trying to do the best for their kid,” she says. “But I actually think that there are times when maybe the best interest of your own kid isn’t actually the best choice. Ultimately, being a good citizen sometimes conflicts with being good parents. And sometimes maybe parents should decide to be good citizens over being good parents.” That could mean voting to raise taxes so to better fund public schools. Maybe in our case it should have meant choosing a public school rather than a private one.
Of course, as a parent, you want the best possible future for your child. But the best possible future should include a society that isn’t organized around racism. Hagerman’s book is a careful, painful and convincing argument that when white people give their children advantages, they are often disadvantaging others. Racism is so hard to overturn, in part, because white people prop it up when they work to make sure their children succeed.
You know the old joke that a liberal is someone who is too broad-minded to take his own side in an argument? A Berlatsky progressive is someone who is too broad-minded to take his own children’s side in preparing them for the future.
Except that almost nobody does that. Berlatsky doesn’t conclude by saying that he and his wife plan to withdraw their woke Columbus-hating child from private school to put him into the local public school. Wonder why?
According to the most up-to-date information I could find online, the Berlatsky family lives in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. (Five years ago, Berlatsky wrote an Atlantic piece about race and crime in Chicago, and said he lives in Hyde Park; from what I could discern online, he still does.) Hyde Park is a gentrified liberal enclave in the predominantly black South Side of Chicago. It’s 47 percent white and 30 percent black. I looked up all the public schools in Berlatsky’s zip code. The two highest rated schools, going by the city’s own measures, are Kenwood High School and Shoesmith, an elementary school. Kenwood’s student body is 84 percent black, and 57 percent low-income, with a 25 percent “chronic truancy” rating. Shoesmith’s student demographics are 91 percent black, 74 percent low income, and 15 percent with chronic truancy.
If Noah Berlatsky wanted his white child to experience the absence of whiteness in education, the opportunity is there, and it’s free. And yet, he still sends his child to private school. Why do you suppose that is? The answer is no doubt that he, like most parents, wants to provide his kid with the best education he can afford. What is hard to understand is why Berlatsky would consent to disfiguring his child with the hideous disease of whiteness.
I’m joking. I am sure that Berlatsky doesn’t believe this racist progressive claptrap for a second. What he does is more important than what he writes. He sent his white kid to private school, not to one of the overwhelmingly black public schools in his neighborhood. I don’t know how old his kid is, but he writes cagily in the NBC News piece that “maybe” he and his wife should have sent their son to a public school. Unless the boy is halfway through his senior year in the private school, it is still possible to pull him out to spare the kid another academic year imbibing the poison of whiteness. If Berlatsky won’t do this, then what right does he have to sit in judgment of other white parents?
It would be a lot more thought-provoking if Berlatsky confronted his own biases, and wrote a piece about why he and his wife sent their kid to a private school, and not to the heavily black public schools in their neighborhood. Is that because of academics alone? Or is it more the case that life would be hard for a white Jewish kid in a public school where non-blacks are 16 percent or fewer of the student body, and the majority of kids are poor and black?
Is there something about the culture of poor black city kids that Noah Berlatsky wants to protect his kid from? Do he and his wife have certain values that they don’t believe most parents of kids in the Hyde Park public schools share? If white parents are as wicked about programming their kids to perpetuate “whiteness” as Noah Berlatsky believes, then it’s difficult to understand why he missed the opportunity to deprogram his son.
Unless, of course, this column was nothing but virtue-signaling b.s.
I know, I know — hypocritical, self-hating white progressives like Berlatsky are particularly low-hanging fruit. But they sling this kind of racially charged language around — and note well, an editor at NBC News approved and published this piece — which stokes racial suspicion, even hatred. Re-read the column, and understand its claim that there is virtually nothing that can be done to cure white people of their horrible disease of whiteness.
Where do people like Berlatsky — academics, media people, that entire social and cultural class — think this is going to end up?
Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, called radio “the most important instrument of mass influence that exists anywhere” (Welch, 1993). Elites in control of autocratic states have repeatedly used mass media – often under their direct control – with the intention to induce citizen support of, and participation in, violence against certain groups (Lee, 1945; Lasswell, 1971). Cross-country evidence indicates that when persecution of certain groups in society is made the official ideology of the elite in power, the likelihood of a conflict transitioning into political mass killings is significantly higher (Harff, 2003). Yet, it is an open question whether and how propaganda that explicitly encourages violence against a certain group can, in fact, directly induce violence against that group.
To be clear, the Rwanda situation was extreme. The Rwanda radio station behind the propaganda started broadcasting only one year before the killings started, and openly encouraged them — this, in a nation where radio was almost the sole source of news. But it is well established that racists and/or ethno-nationalists in power have used racially and religiously charged propaganda to prepare people to commit violence against people of other races living among them, and even direct them to commit the acts. See, for example, the way the Milosevic government propagandized Serbs before and during the Yugoslav civil wars. In Germany, anti-Semitic propaganda depicting Jewish Germans as “parasites” alien to the German body politic was present long before the Nazi Party took power; the Nazis built on what was already there. The Bolsheviks did the same thing by demonizing prosperous farmers (kulaks), leading to their mass murder and exile.
And so forth. Just yesterday I was speaking with my own mother, who is 74, and who was raised in the rural Jim Crow South. She’s reading a book called Same Kind Of Different As Me, which tells in part the story of Denver Moore (d. 2012), a black man about eight years older than she, who grew up in Louisiana poverty, as she did. My mom finds the book very moving, and was telling me how much it has moved her to read about Denver Moore’s childhood, and to recall that hers was a lot like that too. But Moore was black, and had to endure not only poverty, but segregation. My mom told me, with heaviness in her voice, how racism was not even recognized as such by so many in her generation back then. She says Moore has a line — “that was just the way it was” — that expresses that widely shared view in the 1930s and 1940s (the decades of their childhoods), in which Southern people of both races accepted bigotry as part of the natural order.
I say all this not because some lefty white freelancer in Chicago is the equivalent of a Hutu broadcaster, a Nazi or Bolshevik, propagandist, a Serbian hater with a microphone, or a Jim Crow newspaperman. But this racial demonization exists on a continuum. In 2017, the left-wing white professor Bret Weinstein became the target for mass hate demonstrations at Evergreen State in Washington, because he objected to a progressive initiative asking whites to stay off of campus on a particular day. Weinstein and his wife, also a professor, eventually had to leave the university, which had become a hotbed of left-wing violence — including left-wing anti-white violence.
In 2017, I wrote several posts here about Tommy Curry, a radical black nationalist who teaches philosophy at Texas A&M. See here and here. In a 2018 post highlighting an excellent column by a Columbia University black student, Coleman Hughes, I said this:
In his written work and spoken advocacy, Curry advocates what can only be described as anti-white hatred. Don’t take my word for it; go read the blogs I wrote, which quote generously from, and link to, Curry’s own work. A white man who spoke the same way about any racial minority would never have been hired by a university — A&M hired him knowing exactly what they were getting, because he had published — and would never be retained by one after his racism became known. I linked in one of the blogs to a podcast (subtitled, “White People Are The Problem”) on which Curry was a regular guest; on that particular episode, this philosophy professor argued that white people cannot be reasonable, because they are white.
Imagine being a white student in that man’s class.
But there is a different standard for bigots from the left. The Chronicle of Higher Education wrote a long piece about the fallout from my blogs, and positioned it as Curry having suffered because he wanted to “force a conversation about race and violence” — a conversation that people didn’t want to hear. The writer — no doubt reflecting the biases of his own professional class — could not seem to grasp why people would be really offended by the unapologetic racism of Tommy Curry’s writing and speaking. This is precisely the double standard that Coleman Hughes decries. It is lucrative for radicals like Curry, Coates, and others, but a just society should hold us all to the same standard of discourse and morality. This is one aspect of the Enlightenment that I am eager to defend. It’s not only morally right, but practically, observing it it is the only way we will be able to keep the peace in a pluralistic country.
Berlatsky’s piece is minor stuff in the grand scheme of things, but that fact that this demonization of “whiteness” constitutes ordinary discourse on the American left, in educated circles, is alarming. Berlatsky’s essay says that white children carry within them a moral taint by virtue of their race — and that even white parents who raise their children to reject racism scarcely succeed at purifying their kids’ minds. Again, I ask you: where does this kind of thinking take us?
If somebody wrote a column saying that black children are so morally deformed by their blackness that even parents who raise them to reject blackness stand only a small chance of redeeming their children, we would know exactly what we were looking at. Same with children of any other race. Whether they know it or not, Berlatsky, and NBC News, are planting the seed of a wicked idea: that white children are carriers of an evil that in most cases, cannot be eradicated (even teaching white kids to serve non-whites is racist!), and that actively damages non-white people.
Progressives are turning America into a Yankee Doodle Yugoslavia. Late last month, I watched a great 1983 BBC documentary series on the Spanish Civil War, and wrote a long post about it. I knew that there had been terrible atrocities committed by left-wing defenders of the Republic, and right-wing Nationalists during the war, but I had not realized that the left, which took power democratically, when the Republic was declared in 1931, had been extraordinarily, even violently, anti-Catholic — provoking a right-wing reaction. The left-right dynamic ramped up extremes, destroyed the middle ground, and by 1936, led to civil war. In the film, an old man who had fought with the Nationalists says that by the end of the peace, both sides despised each other totally. In other words, war became inevitable.
When progressive journalists and news organizations like NBC propagandize people to believe that “whiteness” is an ideological infection, and that white children are carriers of this evil, they are helping to create the conditions for civil war. Those white males sitting in that university classroom are learning a lesson about their country, but it’s not what the institution wants them to learn.
It’s the casualness of this progressive racism that just blows me away.