By Guest Contributor: Christiane Warren, Ph.D.
The current fever-pitched debate centering around systemic racism, white privilege and micro-aggressions have created a radical echo-chamber that threatens to destroy American core values. Its basic argument places Black Americans in the perpetual state of victimhood, negating agency, personal accountability regarding one’s choices, and rendering all accomplishments and future efforts futile. That is in essence racist. It is also un-American because it makes progress and renewal, the quintessential American ideals, impossible. True equity is accepting full ownership in what happens to the country as a whole, for all of us. Not only do white people need to take responsibility for their real or perceived privilege, but black people also have to step up and take ownership of their own choices and contributions to the body politic. If we want to have a brutally honest conversation about race and power in society, then we need to move away from the victim vs. oppressor dynamic. The single-minded emphasis on systemic racism as explanation and excuse negates individual agency and absolves black Americans from responsibility. That is un-American and it is demeaning to black Americans. Success means having the freedom of one’s choice along with the responsibility of their consequences.
Yet, what is even more troubling is the overall insistence that the narrative of systemic racism’s primacy and pervasiveness is the only acceptable position to take in any public or private discourse. Such intellectual orthodoxy goes against core American values guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Coupled with the accompanying “cancel” culture and the acquiescence of many political and corporate leaders to the extremist demands of the anti-racism agenda, America is on the fast-track to become thoroughly un-American.
Most of Americans, regardless of background or political leaning, will acknowledge that inequalities linked to race, class, gender, religion, etc. continue to persist in modern society. Yet, those who argue that race oppression not only trumps all other inequalities but also is the only valid lens through which power structures can be understood, advance a position that is both reductive and utterly devoid of dissent. That is anti-Democratic, reminiscent of Communism, which stresses class oppression above all, and in its totalitarian propagandistic approach, thoroughly un-American.
By reducing all problems to racial inequality, both success and failure no longer become part of an individual’s accomplishments nor his responsibility. That is an inherently un-American position to hold. It is also ahistorical as it is grounded in the mistaken idea that absolute equality in outcome is achievable or even desirable. The promise that our nation has made to its citizens, is that there would be equality in opportunity to pursue one’s success and that each of us has the right to be treated equally before the law. Those who assert systemic racism, argue that historically, black Americans have not had equal opportunity. That is certainly true. What is however not addressed in these charges is the fact that in the late 18th century, the vast majorities of societies lived under the oppression of absolutism and mercantilism. Slavery and indentured servitude were prevalent on every continent and aristocratic elites controlled political power. Our Constitution was created to dismantle the extreme inequalities of their time.
What was ingenious, is that the document created in 1787 has a built-in elasticity which over time has expanded far beyond its origins. Its foundations are found in the ideas of Protestantism, Humanism, and the Enlightenment, which have unfortunately been dismissed as elitist and outdated by the current anti-racist radical agenda. Yet ,these same intellectual traditions also assert individual rights and freedoms as unalienable. That is exactly what has made America unique.
Finally, what may be the most disconcerting about the current tenor of the discussion and is not necessarily the depth or details of the arguments made. But rather the extremism of the demands for change and the vitriol with which everyone is met who does not 100% subscribe to the most radical ideas and the entire platform of demands sans any debate or qualification. No longer is it acceptable to have open discussions on the cause and effect, the possible remedies, etc. In order to not be charged as a racist one has to refuse to stand when the national anthem is played, see all law enforcement as murderers and any white person who calls the police on a black person, justified or not, is now complicit of facilitating that person’s potential murder. That is frightening. The growing “Gleichschaltung” of policy and ideas is eerily reminiscent of what totalitarian regimes have used. Those among us who have experienced occupation and totalitarian, Socialist control, know that a country that sacrifices its own on behalf of others and even fights a bloody civil war, has to be upheld as truly exceptional.
As a nation that purportedly celebrates pluralism and the marketplace of ideas, we need to remember that we all have fought for the freedom to believe and the right to live as we choose. To counter the point that Black Americans historically have not had the same opportunities to live free and exercise their rights, the answer should not be the curtailment of everyone else’s freedom by asserting a new orthodoxy of “group think and doctrinal speech.” America has always been admired for its celebration of individuality, non-conformity, a “can-do” attitude, and a general flexibility of ideas. As much as it may seem soothing to everyone who has been wronged and hurt to receive retribution and to exercise that pound of flesh from the other party, abandoning the 1st amendment along with other key parts of the Constitution in favor of state sponsored economic redistribution of wealth, fueled by social media mind control, cannot be the answer. Instead we need to work together as allies and equals with mutual respect for individual choices. America has always been known for its confidence and the ability to meet challenges head-on. At what point did we descend into a nation of victims and denouncers? True victory cannot be a Socialist apocalypse of enforced adherence to a one-sided version of equality, but it must be the realization of the American promise for each of us, regardless of color or creed.
More About the Author:
Guest author, Dr. Christiane Warren, Senior Consultant at Anna J Cooper Education Advocacy Recognized for producing growth and cultivating success in the career and education space, Dr. Warren has served as tenured faculty, department chair and academic dean for entire divisions and in the Academic Affairs office at both 2-and-4 year institutions in NJ and NY. Read more about Dr. Warren here.