American slavery was a sin, but neither an original nor an idiosyncratic one….
… Jim Crow, on the other hand, was America’s original sin: we invented it and allowed it to take root in spite of (or, arguably, as an excuse for disregarding) our founding creed of human liberty; we took far longer than we should have to rid ourselves of it – longer, indeed, than we did to rid ourselves of slavery, itself; and we yet suffer its furtive vestiges and endure its execrable repercussions more than sixty years after it was officially and formally consigned to the ash-heap.
The police act on our authority and in our name. That gives us a corresponding responsibility to act, as well, when they step beyond reasonable bounds we have set. And, if we don’t act – if we relax and extend those bounds, either intentionally or simply by failing to accept the responsibility to rein them in – then we are, as well, responsible for the consequences. The color of authority becomes actual authority if we acquiesce to it; and, therefore, the moral stench of that authority, when exercised indecently, adheres to us as much as it does to whoever exercised it on our behalf.
The protesters want justice, but not the kind that a court can give them by convicting a particular villain. Their protests are not really directed at the police or at the courts or at the politicians: they are directed at us. And what they are demanding of us is simple: “Step up! Stop accepting the unacceptable! Rein in those who claim to act in your name!”
That is, indeed, our responsibility. How can we do less?
We will know we have achieved true equality not when a woman or a person of color is allowed to succeed on their own merits, but when they are allowed to fail on their own merits — without the reflexive urge to blame their failure on racism or sexism or some other kind of malicious bias.
It occurs to me (authorial vanity being what it is) to remind people that I wrote my one and only #MeToo piece (at least so far) 20 years before #MeToo existed. Here is a pointer to it.
My #MeToo rant from 1998
I am a (late) middle-aged white man and so, I admit, my experiences of race are almost certainly far removed from yours. But, notwithstanding that, it would seem to me that you and I, with our somewhat similar education levels, economic status, and (in all likelihood) cultural tastes and attitudes, are likely “tribe-mates” in ways far more fundamental than a mere matter of skin color or genetic heritage. And I don’t consider people who beat up others out of some misguided sense of grievance, or who spew ignorance and hate, to be part of my “tribe”. The fact that they may have white skin or may come from the same geographical area as I really has nothing to do with that determination.
As a “conservative” — and, moreover, one who leans toward the libertarian version of “conservatism” — I sometimes find myself in conversation with other libertarian-minded people who identify the Civil War as the point in American history at which the original Federalism began to jump the rails, at which the Federal government first began its evisceration of the notion that a limited Federal government had, and should have, no jurisdiction over certain activities that were and are the purview and prerogative of the individual States. In their telling of the history of that war, it was less about slavery than about the southern States’ assertion of their rights to be free of Federal restraint. And, as a result, although they genuinely celebrate the immediate outcome of that conflict — the abolition of slavery — they also lament the resulting victory of Federal authority over “states’ rights.”
Despite the belief of a great many people that such notions must grow from an underlying base of belief in white supremacy and white nationalism — and despite the fact that there are, in fact, white supremacists and white nationalists who subscribe to and promote that narrative — I generally ascribe it, among the libertarian idealists, more to an honest, if misguided, lack of historical perspective coupled to a contemporary and compelling anxiety. Chattel slavery was, after all, abolished in the United States more than 150 years ago, in law by the Emancipation Proclamation and then in practice by the surrender of the Confederacy. Jim Crow laws were abolished by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, more than 50 years ago, and well over 2/3 of Americans now alive were not yet born when those laws fell. To a great many people — admittedly, people fortunate enough to be free of the ongoing yoke of discrimination in culture rather than in law — both slavery and Jim Crow feel like relics from a long-ago past, a problem already solved and well behind us. Whereas, the constraining yoke of an increasingly overweening and intrusive Federal government feels like a problem both modern and growing, a problem for today with direct and observable effects on their lives and on their futures.
Nonetheless, their sincerity does not make them right. This, then is directed to their attention and for their benefit, from one libertarian-minded conservative to another:
Donald Trump’s claim that judge Gonzalo Curiel’s ethnic background make him incapable of fairly adjudging the Trump University suit because of Trump’s own insulting assertions about Mexico and Mexicans is, of course, offensive on many levels.
But I find the vehemence with which his claims are denounced by the ‘liberal’ establishment a bit disingenuous. After all, isn’t what Trump is saying entirely consistent with their own official philosophy regarding race and ethnicity?
You do understand the irony, don’t you?
By insisting that districts must be constructed to group minorities together the government is pursuing a formal policy of “separate-but-equal“.
As a consumer of resources, I love the idea of someone else paying to support my lifestyle choices. But, as a producer of resources — and as a liberty-minded citizen of the American republic — I abhor the notion that the government should oblige me to provide for the lifestyle choices of others.
Perhaps the availability of contraception transcends mere “lifestyle choice” and comprises a public good worthy of government compulsion. Perhaps it doesn’t. That is worth a debate and I won’t pass judgement on it here.
But I must insist that those debating the issue do so honestly. No one is threatening to take away your birth control. All they are asking is that they not be forced to pay for it.
Those born to the lower class that are now living by upper class values and norms have made a conscious choice to do so. In a sense, they have repudiated their roots, declared by their actions that the way they live now is better than the way they lived then. And believe me, those on the other side of that divide are aware of the choice and feel it as a challenge. When you’ve actively chosen one way over another, it’s hard to make the argument, even to yourself, that the choice was merely between two equivalents rather than between a better and a worse.