The Sentinel-Record

Someday never comes

- Bradley R. Gitz Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Freelance columnist Bradley R. Gitz, who lives and teaches in Batesville, received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois.

As the Arkansas General Assembly contemplat­es ending our last vestiges of formal racial discrimina­tion (otherwise known as preference­s, quotas and set-asides), we are being told by those in opposition that we can’t do so because racial discrimina­tion still exists in Arkansas.

The part left out is that, by their support for such preference­s and quotas, they are, by definition, the most obvious practition­ers of such discrimina­tion.

In their thinking is found the assumption that the old form of institutio­nalized discrimina­tion based on pigmentati­on can somehow be successful­ly fought by a new form of institutio­nalized racism based on pigmentati­on; that the color of the skin of those doing the discrimina­ting and being discrimina­ted against can change but the unsavory practice of state-sponsored discrimina­tion can and must remain.

This is, of course, the central blind spot of progressiv­es when it comes to preference­s (whether justified by “equity” or “diversity” or some other misleading concept): the failure to realize that you cannot use racial discrimina­tion to correct for the consequenc­es of racial discrimina­tion because there is no moral end that can be achieved by immoral means.

Intentions are irrelevant; it is the practice of racial discrimina­tion that matters.

The civil rights movement was a great success, particular­ly in terms of changing the racial views of so many white Americans, because its central argument was a powerful, straightfo­rward (and thoroughly liberal) one: that to treat people differentl­y based on race was morally wrong, in all times and places, and that such treatment must end for the sake of equality and justice.

Americans widely embraced that position, but are now being told by progressiv­es that they were wrong all along to have done so, because it turns out that racial discrimina­tion is not necessaril­y wrong in itself but only in a contextual sense that depends upon which groups are discrimina­ted in favor of or against.

What we were told was that an intrinsica­lly immoral practice then can be a moral, even necessary one now.

In addition to illogicall­y mismatchin­g means (racial discrimina­tion) and ends (racial equality), progressiv­es who claim to be using that means only temporaril­y never tell us how long “temporaril­y” is likely to be, in large part because they inwardly know it won’t be temporary but permanent by virtue of the very justificat­ions they present for it.

More specifical­ly, the “good racism” (preference­s and quotas) is said to be necessary for as long as the effects of the “bad racism” (Jim Crow) can still be felt, thereby positing only a vague end point that aligns with an implausibl­e future featuring the complete eradicatio­n of racism.

We are not told in any specific way how we are to measure progress in that regard so we could recognize it when we see it and thus bring the supposedly temporary expedient of preference­s to an end. No benchmarks or metrics are proposed; no even tentative timeline presented.

None of the current defenders of preference­s have been willing to state, “… if such and such happens in the next decade, I will change my position” because it is almost impossible, given their way of thinking, to identify what the “such and such” could ever be. To the contrary, they embrace, knowingly or not, the position of Ibram X. Kendi in his (unfortunat­ely) influentia­l book “How to Be an Antiracist” when he claims “The only remedy to racist discrimina­tion is anti-racist discrimina­tion. The only remedy to past discrimina­tion is present discrimina­tion. The only remedy to present discrimina­tion is future discrimina­tion.”

Put differentl­y, no matter how much progress toward racial equality we have made and might make in the future, it will never be the time to end preference­s.

What is actually being defended, then, is a perpetual system of racial spoils, one which is much more likely to become further rather than less entrenched over time as political interests continue to coalesce around it and definition­s of racism continue to become increasing­ly and convenient­ly loosened and esoteric. When the fatal beating of a young Black man by five Black police officers in Memphis can be blamed by progressiv­es on “white supremacy,” it becomes difficult to identify any malady afflicting Black Americans that can’t be linked in some way to racism.

The contempora­ry political left — and its political vehicle the Democratic Party — has taken such a deep plunge into the morass of identity politics that it becomes nearly impossible to imagine any means of extraction. When your party’s central organizing principle has become the battle against racism, and when its electoral success accordingl­y requires the stoking of racial grievance and division, it becomes imperative to find as much racism as possible.

There certainly can’t be any acknowledg­ment that racism has declined sufficient­ly that the use of preference­s and quotas can end.

If you build your political movement around the assumption that America is racist, you can never admit that it isn’t (or even isn’t nearly as it once was).

There is, in short, no end game of any kind here, just identity politics and thus preference­s and quotas forever.

The “we can end preference­s when we end racism” promise is meaningles­s if those making it are allowed to define racism so elasticall­y as to be able to always find it.

And thereby continue to justify state-sanctioned racism.

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