Someday never comes
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.